1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. MSC Cruises
  4. MSC Orchestra Review
  5. MSC Orchestra Cruise Reviews
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2016
we went for a cruise with msc orchestra to the French Antiles. We had a great time. The staff was verry friendly, they spoke french/ englisch/ spanisch/italian,.... The cabins were clean the beds confortable and the housekeeper was ... Read More
we went for a cruise with msc orchestra to the French Antiles. We had a great time. The staff was verry friendly, they spoke french/ englisch/ spanisch/italian,.... The cabins were clean the beds confortable and the housekeeper was verry helpfull with all we asked. The food was mostly average to good. we didn't expect more than we got. The shows where verry professional en entertaining. I don't understand what other revieuwers are nagging about! We took the alegrissio pack and I kept the receipts, we did more than a great deal! You can order drinks without thinking of the price Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
We have cruised with many cruise lines and this was by far the worst experience. you were not even allowed to take on board water or soft drinks. you had to pay for almost everything. the service was awful and slow. the food was average ... Read More
We have cruised with many cruise lines and this was by far the worst experience. you were not even allowed to take on board water or soft drinks. you had to pay for almost everything. the service was awful and slow. the food was average and the buffet was only warm with pasta, pizza, burgers etc. the ship looks wonderful but a lot of the ship was reserved for select passengers. I would recommend looking at a different cruise line and enjoy your holiday. It appears to us that this is the ship that they send staff for retraining as they they were discourteous and not help full at all we asked our steward for ice 5 times and ended up fetching it from the buffet and fetched it ourselves. we should of read some of these reviews about the orchestra before we booked. we asked for compensation from MSC but they say there is no problem with the ship. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
This was our 2nd cruise with MSC, having previously sailed on the Divina from Miami around the Caribbean in early 2014. We were attracted to the port intensive itinerary with no full sea days throughout the whole 14 day cruise. Embarkation ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise with MSC, having previously sailed on the Divina from Miami around the Caribbean in early 2014. We were attracted to the port intensive itinerary with no full sea days throughout the whole 14 day cruise. Embarkation in Barbados was rather unusual in that there was no one from MSC to greet us upon arrival at the Port building and none of the usual queues of people expected when embarking a cruise ship. Port officials simply pointed to the ship and told us to take our cases up to the ship to embark. Upon reaching the ship our cases were taken for screening and we had to battle with passengers trying to get on and off for excursions whilst we handed over our passports and paperwork to security. After a few minutes we were welcomed aboard and 10 minutes later we had our cruise cards and were ready to find our cabin. A good start. The reason for the rather unusual embarkation procedures was explained to us by a waitress as we ordered our first drink on board. Only around 100 passengers were embarking in Barbados, the remaining 3,000 would embark at the weekend in either Guadeloupe or Martinique. More on that later. The ship, its outside decks and the public lounges are all in good condition and there are a good variety of bars on board. Due to the itinerary there were plenty of loungers available and the pools were relatively quiet until mid-afternoon. We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet most days and the food was pretty good. Dinner in the main restaurant was a bit hit and miss. Our balcony cabin (11169) was a reasonable size and well maintained by our steward, although I had to request a change of bed linen after 7 days which is poor. The majority of passengers on board were French speaking and included a large number of natives from both Guadeloupe & Martinique. I think it is fair to say that some of these passengers had little understanding of cruise ship etiquette and this did spoil our enjoyment overall. Large groups spent hours in the buffet piling up their plates with food, and putting food into bags to take ashore on trips. If you sat at a table in the bar area on the outside decks you would likely be surrounded by a large group who would move chairs so that you were blocked in, or they would talk over you to people on neighbouring tables. This behaviour could be quite intimidating. Young children were taken in the swimming pool naked – and older children were unsupervised and spent all their time running and jumping in the pool annoying the other guests. The pool attendants seemed at a loss at how to deal with this behaviour and simply seemed to give up and move away from the pool area. Entertainment was certainly not geared towards English speaking passengers and most of the live music was terrible. Service was variable, we had a great waiter in the dining room and a few of the waiters and waitresses in the bars were friendly and efficient, but it was almost impossible to get a drink on the sun deck unless you went to the bar. Disembarkation should have been simple as there were so few people disembarking in Barbados, but we had a really bad experience. We went to the disembarkation meeting where the lady holding the meeting had the wrong information. The following morning our key card stopped working at 7.30am when we weren’t due to disembark until 11.00am. Two trips to reception and they couldn’t resolve this! There were only 2 groups leaving the ship, 11.00am for those making their own arrangements and 13.45pm for those with MSC transfers. We left the ship at 11.00am only to find my suitcase which was left outside our cabin alongside my husbands, was nowhere to be found. We had to wait another ½ hour for them to locate my suitcase (they didn’t seem too bothered about helping us as we had disembarked) and we didn’t even get an apology. All in all a good cruise due to a great itinerary and fabulous weather, but I wouldn’t cruise MSC again, service poor overall and English speakers were treated like 2nd class citizens. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
we went on this cruise thinking it was wheelchair friendly the staff were very rude the only person that helped us was the cleaner I had to get my partner off the ship by myself twice as there was no one to help nearly lost him ... Read More
we went on this cruise thinking it was wheelchair friendly the staff were very rude the only person that helped us was the cleaner I had to get my partner off the ship by myself twice as there was no one to help nearly lost him overboard.the lifejacket drill was a joke,when you hear a certain noise you must go to your cabin an retrieve your life jacket do not use the lift then she spotted my partner an said I surpose you will have to .we couldn't get in the pools as they are 5 foot7 one end and 6 foot the following end an the steps are in the deep end.the disabled cabin was worse the only way you could tell it was disabled there was a seat in the shower it wasn't a none slip floor had we of known this we would of got a balcony cabin.we only paid to go on one excursion due to the fact when we went on the trip we had to get off at deck 4 others got off at deck 5 by time we got off the ship our group had disappeared I had to find someone who then accused us of being late which we wasn't we a just slower cause of the wheelchair no one waited they are more friendly off the ship than on it .if your a wheelchair user I wouldn't recommend this cruise it was an experience like no other.the dinning started off bad as soon as staff noticed the wheelchair they were mortified and our starter was missed the only good thing about the holiday was the places we went to an some of the other English on board . Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Upon arrival, after travelling more than 15 hours, we were constantly harassed by employees from MSC to sell beverage and other packages before allowing us to check-in. The check-in was very brief and we were given almost no information ... Read More
Upon arrival, after travelling more than 15 hours, we were constantly harassed by employees from MSC to sell beverage and other packages before allowing us to check-in. The check-in was very brief and we were given almost no information at all. Therefore we did not realy feel welcome, only a number. Travelling with our parents we found a note in the cabin that there was a problem with the luggage of our parents and had to report at the guest services desk. At the desk we were told they would send somebody straight away. Unfortunately that did not happen. After reporting a second time at the desk, we were told that an employee from the security department would come and escort us to the luggage. That took ages before he finally arrived. In the meantime we lost more than one hour, being hungry, tired and only wanted to unpack and go to bed. Apparently they claimed to see something suspicious in the luggage, but after searching the luggage found nothing. The telephone, the safe deposit box and remote control of the TV did not work in the cabin. After reporting several times at the desk, it was finally fixes after 3 days!!! Our excursions were booked several weeks in advance and payed for. MSC choose to cancel some excursions because there were not enough english speaking guests that wanted to do the tour. We received a letter explaining that the tour was cancelled. However received the vouchers for the tour in our cabin some hours later. Very confusing. Had to report to the excursion desk and lost more of our precious time. The English excursion that did go through, we were put in a bus with several other guests but with a Spanish speaking guide. After complaining at the excursion desk, we finally got hold of the supervisor after one hour. Again more of our precious time lost. Apparently with MSC they cancel English speaking tours whenever they do not have sufficient guests attending. Even when the tour is confirmed in writing before the actual cruise. MSC puts Spanish speaking guides on busses with English tours. The staff of the excursion desk did not even offer an apology and was very unfriendly. Having travelled with Norwegian Cruise lines, Princess Cruises and Carnival we found MSC staff very unfriendly. Not even saying goodmorning, ... after seeing some guest on the way. The excursion desk forgot to take the excursions from the invoice even after they were cancelled!!! For future guests: check your invoice twice! After our excursions were booked before the cruise and payed for, they changed the price and we had to pay the difference. They were not able to provide the tour at the same price as on our confirmation letter. The food is bad, bad, bad. Comparing to other Cruise lines, the food lacks presentation, taste, finesse ... We usually eat out in the main dining room in the evening enjoying being served. But we were forced to eat in the buffet restaurant, because the food in the restaurant was appalling. In the buffet restaurant you could at least see what you can get. So if you want to be treated like durt, feel free to book with MSC. Otherwise stay away! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
The ship is nice and the balcony cabines are looking good also. The food was low cost quality. The strongest point of this cruise was the staff, with special remarks for Miguel, the waiter in cigar bar. Ship and entertainment ... Read More
The ship is nice and the balcony cabines are looking good also. The food was low cost quality. The strongest point of this cruise was the staff, with special remarks for Miguel, the waiter in cigar bar. Ship and entertainment information are delived on board daily. Trips organized are expensive and is better to do your own programm on each stop, according to your preferences. Dinning in a la carte restaurants is for people having patience to be served with medium quality dishes. Overall it wasn't bed, but didn't meet our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
The daytime/evening cruise entertainment crew on Orchestra was the best I've ever experienced! Richard, Fernando, Akeetaka and the rest of the entertainment crew kept us laughing and dancing the whole cruise. Fun games and Caribbean ... Read More
The daytime/evening cruise entertainment crew on Orchestra was the best I've ever experienced! Richard, Fernando, Akeetaka and the rest of the entertainment crew kept us laughing and dancing the whole cruise. Fun games and Caribbean dancing poolside by day and salsa dance lessons, silly, side-splitting contests and games in the evening. Of course, sometimes the other passengers provide some of the best impromptu, situational humor on board!My cabin was on 10th floor forward/portside. It was a perfect location on this ship for quietness. The people in cabin next to me were very noisy in early AM- One could easily hear banging of doors and drawers in the closets. Wish they could find a way to buffer this noise from drawers and doors. The closet provide adequate storage for hanging items, luggage and drawers for me alone. It would be cramped for 2 people. I loved the dresser with built-in hair dryer/mirror and stool- made getting ready easy for females! Cabin is very spacious, clean and well appointed. I was very comfortable. The bathroom also very clean and easy to maneuver in. Could have used a picture with some directions for how to work the shower- a bit confusing. The balcony was spacious with 2 chairs and a small table. The balcony floor was always wet and glass railing/sliding glass doors covered with salt water/mist all the time. I wish there was a way to keep it clear- probably a challenge on the forward part of the ship! The nightly entertainment in the theater was spectacular! A real european flare with cirque de soleil feel to some of the shows. The opera and classical performances were top notch. I was pleasantly surprised by the trapeze artist, acrobatics team and ballet in the onboard entertainment. The food was a bit of a disappointment over all. However, I did NOT go hungry ever and I'm sure I put on a few pounds while onboard. The Italian inspired dishes were quite bland and did not have the zing of flavor I would expect from even an average quality italian restaurant. I was very impressed with the variety of offerings for lunch and dinner in the dining rooms. I especially enjoyed the veal cordon bleu, lamb (twice), indian curry dishes and filet mignon. The cream of fruit, chilled soups were amazingly tasty as well. My favorite desert served in the dining room was the panna cotta. The gelato poolside was yummy too. The complimentary fresh fruit in one's cabin each day was a real plus. I liked being able to order room service with no additional charges. Foods that could use some improvement are: salads at dinner, need more vegetables on side of main entrees, offer more shrimp dishes for dinner, appetizer offerings in the lounges for "midnight buffets". I liked the concept of having a limited offering for the midnight snacks in the lounges rather than providing a huge buffet. However, the offerings were greasy and rather tasteless. Poolside. I was concerned about general safety in the pool areas. They need to have someone monitoring safety more and not leaving this responsibility to the parents and passengers. We saw lots of young children unattended- hopping into the hot tubs and pools. I was very concerned about drunk adults diving into the pool with glass bear bottles in their mouths- very unsafe and stupid. The chair "saving" situation is problematic- but really it is the responsibility of passengers to act appropriately. I do not see any practical way for orchestra staff to make this situation better. Passengers need an attitude adjustment and need not feel entitled to own a chair for the day. Photography. I enjoyed sitting for photo portraits during evenings. Photographers did a nice job of posing me. Not thrilled about posing with the silly clowns or pirates during dinner. I wish one could order different size photo packages with the portraits. Only 8 x 10 offered. Would be nice to get 5 x 7 or wallet size packages. Overall my experience on MSC Orchestra was fantastic! I would cruise with MSC again and recommend them to my friends- that is the number one sign of success. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We were four of a group of 13. Port was a nightmare when we arrived and staff ranged from bothered to outright rude. This includes talking about passengers behind their backs like they were idiots. Nothing about boarding was well marked, ... Read More
We were four of a group of 13. Port was a nightmare when we arrived and staff ranged from bothered to outright rude. This includes talking about passengers behind their backs like they were idiots. Nothing about boarding was well marked, efficient, or pleasant. Even when I beamed a smile and thanked them and wished them a wonderful day. Our dining group got split into different times and dining rooms.We boarded. Staff talked among themselves...no welcome or anything. At the end of the cruise we found out the individuals can not accept cash tips, and can result in termination. When we inquired about it we found. All tips go into a pool and are divided equally. So a waiter who does excellent, like ours, will not see the tip as you'd give it. They can accept gifts. Which my account for lack of attention of some, explain, Not excuse.We went to rooms. They were ready. Small but do-able. Shower was tiny and curtain even stick to my size "0" DD. Room attendant was not great. No fruit. daily letters always late.Saw about dinner reservations. They told me who ever booked it only booked for 9. Funny...I made the booking for the group and handled everything. Ended up with a table for 9 and a table for 4, Late seating in the Ibiscus. Waiter and Assistant waiter were AWESOME! Found little to no language barrier. Food in dinning room lacked flavor. Cocktail staff were SLOW! Buffet food was good. Juices were VERY watered down. Lines awful and sorry to say my fellow americans were rude, wasteful, gluttons. my roomy is a gym junkie and spent 2 hours a day there. Clean. Location pleasant. Equipment was current, easy to use and adequate enough to get through her usual weekly rituals.Kids program was a soar spot with me. Loved getting to spend time with kids and enjoyed ourselves in spite of the lack of a kids program. The time block they called a Jr. program was when there were really no adult activities to speak of. As a parent I was looking forward to a little child free time with other adults. That did not happen. It is also a BIG mistake for MSC. If the kids are safe and entertained...parents will spend $$ on Spa treatments, go to activities in lounges and drink more, hit casino and any number of other areas where the line makes $.I found entertainment staff on pool deck amusing. Shows in theater...Not what I expected. I've seen better shows on other lines. Found the magic act lacking, and chair dance number between sets vulgar. NOT KID FRIENDLY. Everything in theater was classical or Circe de sole-ish. Fine for a night or two. Would have like more entertainment options. As kids sail free a rating or description of shows would have helped. Or make the shows kid friendly. Even a few pranks by staff on pool deck had me cringing when the kids were there. Seating my the pool was always available. Although at least  2 days I found it too windy to stay there long.Ports we did our own thing so can not comment on excursions.Disembarking was as bad if not worse then embarking. Had to get luggage and drag it with you lines started as 2 split into 6. people pushing, cutting each other off, running your toes over, etc. only to get to 1 agent handling 2 lines. Overall we had a great time because we kept an open mind, great attitude, a fun group and an awesome dining staff. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We just returned from an Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the MSC Orchestra and had a fantastic time. The ship is absolutely beautiful and we found the service to be courteous and friendly without being overbearing. This was our first ... Read More
We just returned from an Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the MSC Orchestra and had a fantastic time. The ship is absolutely beautiful and we found the service to be courteous and friendly without being overbearing. This was our first cruise with MSC and we read many of the negative reviews prior to our cruise. We went with open minds and we had a wonderful time during our cruise. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at Port Everglades at about 12:30 and walked aboard the Orchestra at 1:00 pm where we were directed to our room. After dropping off our carry-on bags, we headed for the buffet on deck 13 and enjoyed a delicious lunch. The ship is lovely and modern. From the dining areas to the lounges and shops, the layout is beautiful and easy to navigate. Our stateroom was not large, but plenty big enough for 2 people for a week. The shower is a bit small, but the water temperature and pressure were always excellent. Perhaps most noticeable is now CLEAN this boat is. Throughout the ship, the brass is gleaming, the floors and windows are clean, dining tables are cleared and cleaned as soon as they are vacated. Our cabin attendant was great as our room was always cleaned and restocked with fresh towels, etc when we returned at the end of the day. The service by the international crew was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and helpful (we especially enjoyed the Cigar Bar each evening where Jimmy always greeted us with a warm smile and wonderful service). The food was quite good, especially, as you would expect, the pastas . The buffets are plentiful and offer a nice variety of foods. The breakfast buffet each morning was outstanding. Don't miss the evening Pizza buffet from 5pm - 9 pm on deck 13, the pizza is wonderful and the singing waiter is delightful. The gelato bar by the pool is a MUST! We enjoyed the best gelato we have ever had and it is a great value for the price. The shows were very good and quite diverse featuring great and beautiful dancers, a talented magician, a gifted tenor and the wonderful MSC Orchestra (which also performed daily by the central staircase). Overall, this cruise was a fantastic value and we cannot wait until our next cruise. We highly recommend MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
OK... first of all I booked this cruise because of the price, I got a great deal. it was like 1k for 2 of us for 7 days. I booked the interior room because it was the cheapest. I also booked this cruise because my husband is from Italy and ... Read More
OK... first of all I booked this cruise because of the price, I got a great deal. it was like 1k for 2 of us for 7 days. I booked the interior room because it was the cheapest. I also booked this cruise because my husband is from Italy and he didn't really want to go on a cruise so i thought this would make it a little more comfortable for him. The embarkation was actually pretty smooth except I think we showed up when everyone else did so there was a huge line! We were surprised to find out that we were upgraded for free to a balcony room, which was great! Yes the rooms are small, but what do you expect on a ship that's supposed to have enough rooms and space for all their passengers? We didn't have fresh fruit like promised when we arrived but it was there when we returned from dinner. But honestly we could care less, we didn't even eat it. Our room attendant introduced himself when we got there, but after that we never saw him again. He did keep our room clean ALL the time though! You have a card you have to put in a slot that lets them know you are in your room or not. Food- Im kind of picky, but not too bad, and I personally thought that the sit down food was great! the buffet food was OK -some good- some weird- some bad haha. We never got to try the pizzeria, but the pizza at the buffet was awful. The gelato, for $2 was amazing! You must try it!! Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner you could do either sit down, or buffet. We mostly did sit down. You have so many different choices that are better that way. You could always get juice, coffee, tea or water free with every meal. Soda and alcohol cost extra. Alcohol was about 7$ a drink. i dont remember how much beer was. The Pool Deck- we only laid out 1 time, mostly because of the people. Which had NOTHING to do with the cruise. People on this trip for some reason were SO RUDE!!! Not the employees, THE GUESTS! If you want a spot anywhere, with a chair you better be out there at 8am! what really pissed me off was people come and "claim" a chair then leave and dont come back for hours, so the people looking for chairs cant sit down! We never got in the pools they were always too crowded.. They always had some kind of skit or game or srt project going on outside. Theres ping pong as well. The Ports- They were always ON TIME and were there as long as they claimed they would be. The only place that was kind of bad on time was Antigua- 7am to 1pm. CAYO LAVENTADO- basically all it is, is a beach. You have to try the pina coladas and lobster tho, they were AMAZING!!! The beach was pretty, water clear, but really small. St. JOHN- we went snorkeling on the catamaran which was booked by MSC. It was ok, we didn't see anything, the only good thing about it was all the free alcohol!! So i cant tell you much about the island itself. ANTIGUA- we did a taxi tour which was interesting..the water there is absolutely gorgeous! NASSAU- this is where we did all of our shopping, you must get the rum cake from tortuga, it is so good. All in all the ports were good, we only were on the beach once and that was in cayo. I wish we would have laid out more. NIGHTLY SHOWS- THey were great! some didn't make sense, haha but they were entertaining. They had magic, singers, ballet, dancing, circus acts, all in all it was fun. My opinion on the whole trip (summed up) I think the people on here that complain about everything should shut the hell up!! Sorry for the language, but unless they do something seriously wrong like loose your luggage, or dont have a room for you, or i dont know, spit on you or something, then you dont have a reason to be mad! Not just because you didn't like the food and they didn't leave towel animals on your bed! SO WHAT!!! You get what you pay for. Obviously you get all that stuff on other cruises which are 3x more expensive! If you care that much about all that stuff then book a different cruise!! You get pretty decent food, shows, nightlife, ocean, sun, shopping, sightseeing, and VACATION! I do agree it probably is geared more for older people, but i saw plenty of kids running around. They are free after all. They do all the announcements in like 4 different languages which does get old but also they have so many different cultures on the boat i think its pretty polite of them. Not to assume everyone understands English. I thought the staff was super nice! They were always helpful and attentive. And they worked their butts off too. They work 9 months back to back, give them a break! I think if you cant really afford the top dog cruises, definitely take this cruise! It was well worth the money. Hopefully it goes as smooth as mine did, and hopefully you have an open mind, unlike others. AND PLEASE DONT BE RUDE TO OTHER PEOPLE ON THE BOAT!!!!! I hope it helps. If you have any questions I would be more then happy to answer them. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
First let me say that as a family having cruised many times on Royal Caribbean we may have set our expectations too high for this particular cruiseline. We had read numerous reviews prior to departing and decided not to cancel and go with ... Read More
First let me say that as a family having cruised many times on Royal Caribbean we may have set our expectations too high for this particular cruiseline. We had read numerous reviews prior to departing and decided not to cancel and go with an open mind. I'm still not convinced that was a great idea. There were four in our party, my wife and I, and our sixteen year old daughter and thirteen year old son. We arrived the day before and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66, which is nicely located one mile from the port and has beautiful grounds and marina. I highly recommend this hotel. The staff was courteous and the rooms nicely appointed and clean. The night before the cruise we had a room in the tower, where from our balcony when we awoke the next morning we could see the Orchestra at the pier. The night the cruise ended we stayed in a lanai room directly on the waterway with two beautiful yachts docked right outside our window. The water taxi stops right at the hotel pier and brings you to some great spots in Ft. Lauderdale and also affords a spectacular view of the homes and yachts along the waterway. We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:45 and were greeted by long lines. I had completed the express check-in on the MSC website a few weeks prior with all of our passport information, etc. and as the instruction said printed the form to be presented at the express check-in window. There is no express check-in window and after waiting in line for an hour we finally made it to the check-in desk and the guy didn't even look at the express check-in form. The process once we were at the desk was quick and we were on board by 1:15. Not as speedy as expected but not too bad. When we stepped onto the ship there were crew members standing there but they were talking amongst themselves and not paying any attention to passengers boarding. No welcome or directions were given, so we assumed our stateroom was ready and went directly there. It was ready. For four people it was a little tight, but manageable, as we don't spend a large amount of time in the room. There were two twins made into one queen a pullout love seat and a bunk that pulled out of the wall. The room was clean with the exception of the slider to the balcony had finger prints all over it and obviously hadn't been cleaned. Bathroom was small with a tiny shower with a curtain that stuck to you when you showered. After checking out the cabin we headed up to the pool deck (13) for the buffet. This was extremely unorganized and usually total chaos with people entering the line at any point they felt like, rather than going to the end and waiting their turn. This is obviously not so much the fault of the cruiseline as of the rude people who have no regard for others in line. The food choices were somewhat limited compared to those on other cruises and for the most part was either bland or tasted awful. They did have roast lamb one day that was great, but the accompanying side-dishes were horrendous. The standard burgers and dogs were only offered on one side of the buffet and usually had the longest line. They do have a salad bar and we usually stuck with that for lunch. It would be nice if they added onions to the salad bar. Seating was usually easy to get if you go all the way back to what is know as the Four Seasons Dining Room. The pool area was crowded but seats are always available. We liked sitting on the lounges on the deck above the pool and watching the activities or reading and relaxing. Beverage service was always available and the servers were extremely polite and not constantly pushing drinks. Small finger sandwiches and pastries were available around four o'clock and pizza was available at five o'clock. Not being a huge pizza fan I thought it was horrible but my wife who loves pizza said it was "ok". We had the second seating in the Ibiscus Dining Room and had requested a private table of which there were plenty. We were seated at a table for eight and after speaking with a Maitre d' with an attitude, it was quite evident he couldn't care less what our request was and had no intentions of honoring our request. It turned out fine as we were seated with a very nice group and had a lot of laughs. On the first night I ordered Caesar salad and Chicken Marsala for dinner. The salad had perhaps five or six pieces of lettuce and hardly any dressing. When my entrEe was served, I told the waiter I didn't order an appetizer and he informed me that appetizer size drumstick and the accompanying bite size piece of thigh (?) was in fact my dinner! First time I lost weight on a cruise! We also like to enjoy a martini before dinner and discuss the day's events and plan tomorrow's events with the kids, while we review the menu selections. We were told that the dining room staff does not serve cocktails, but that they would get a cocktail server, who showed up as we were finishing dinner. Cocktail service did improve as the week went on, as I tipped one of the servers the second night. He was very attentive going forward. As for the food for the rest of the week...horrible. Absolutely the worst tasting and smallest portions of any cruise we have been on. I have seen better presentation and tasted better food in a hospital. What was advertised as rack of lamb turned out to be two paper thin lamb chops. What was advertised as filet mignon was a not even recognizable piece of rubber boot. Escargot served in a dried up baked potato with no snails, just mushrooms and a brown sauce. The language barrier was also a major stumbling block, as our waiter was from Indonesia and spoke very limited English except when taking our order he would point with his pen and say "what you want" and when changing silverware or serving food he would give everything to me to pass down the table to the intended recipient. Not exactly fine dining!! Entertainment in the lounges was terrible. What was built up to be this fantastic Beatles Review turned out to be the ship's cruise director and four other staff singing (or attempting to) Beatles' songs. They should stick to their day jobs! Karaoke and talent show were ok. Usually any show with the cruise activity staff in it was corny and sometimes almost homo erotic. We only attended the Magic show in the theatre, so I can't really comment on this venue. Poolside activities were minimal and rather foolish. The ports were great. We booked only one excursion through the ship in Antigua and it was excellent. The rest of the ports we did our own thing with shopping and dining, etc. A few points of concern that I noticed: Pool rules not enforced. There was a large family that basically took over one of the pools and had an infant in a diaper in the pool with them. That did it for me using the pool for the rest of the week. One afternoon while we were sitting having a gelato we were inundated with young children perhaps age five or six who we assume were part of the day care, running wild around the pool deck on a scavenger hunt. These kids were not under the direction or watch of any staff and were let to run all over the pool deck and upper decks above the pool. Not only were these kids at risk of being hurt, etc., I would bet that the parents had no clue their children were running around unattended. The teens group also had very little supervision and age limits not enforced. It is beyond me why a twenty-four year old guy was allowed to hang at the teen club. Trouble just waiting to happen. Thankfully our two were not interested in hanging there and made friends that also chose not to hang there. In summary, I think MSC has a long way to go before it could even come close to comparing with cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean. While I recognize that MSC is a European company and promote themselves as such, I saw many disgruntled Europeans on the cruise as well. I feel badly for the staff, as I truly believe that given the proper training and a quality product to deliver they could do so. I observed simple frustrations of passengers being elevated to levels of anger because of either a language barrier, or in some cases a "who cares" attitude. I was also dismayed at the way the wait-staff and bar staff was treated by management and in some cases patrons. The bar manager in the Savannah Lounge treated the staff like they were slaves and looked down his nose at everyone including patrons. This guy truly needs to get over himself. Additionally, there were a number of elderly passengers that were extremely rude and degrading to staff with an attitude of superiority and entitlement. It is beyond me why people feel they have the right to be nasty to other people. A little kindness can go a long way in trying to resolve a situation. In a conversation we had with a member of the staff, when asked how much longer he would be serving on this ship, he responded "hopefully not long, nobody likes working here." Mr. Sasso, it shows. While one might argue that because of the kids sail free incentive we "got what we paid for", to the contrary, we paid about the same price for the owner's suite on the Royal Caribbean Empress two years ago and have unbelievable memories that will last a lifetime and we were fed and treated like royalty. Shop around, there are some great deals to be found. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Let me begin by telling all the people that are worried about the negative comments............you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Just got back from a great family vacation aboard the beautiful Orchestra and had a wonderful ... Read More
Let me begin by telling all the people that are worried about the negative comments............you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Just got back from a great family vacation aboard the beautiful Orchestra and had a wonderful time and have nothing to complaint about.........maybe a couple of suggestions but nothing more. Embarkation ...not a problem they must have 20 or so people checking you did a web check in, I am not kidding you it takes like 5 to 10 minutes to go in. As soon as you board there are different booths with info on excursion, clubs, etc A delicious buffet awaits for you on deck 13 great food. I cannot understand when people say that the food is nasty. we all thought the food was great and plenty I mean plenty there is breakfast in the buffet or dinning room whatever you prefer from 7 - 9:30 am. Lunch in the buffet or restaurant from 12:00 to 3:30 they have a pasta of the day everyday, they serve chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, veggies, rice (different kinds everyday)salad bar, trust me lots and lots of food, the rolls are yummy, they serve pineapple and iced tea for free all time along with coffee and tea (like 20 different kinds) I also had conversations with other passengers and I would say 98% of the people I talked to were very happy with everything about the cruise. Entertainment team is wonderful language barrier???? how about being able to speak 5 languages fluently and back to back they are amazingly entertainers and I have a lot of respect for what they do to try and please all the different nationalities aboard, never a dull moment with them. Rude staff??? never encounter that on the contrary every body is very nice and always say hi to you and smile. Language barrier???? everyone speaks the language and are very very nice people we had great conversations with many of them and they all understand English perfectly well. Shows in the theater are great like everybody says on their reviews I don't think people are complaining there. One of the things we can say we didn't like was the fact that everything happens early on the day or very late at night I am referring to like the daily activities, it seems like nothing happens in the afternoon. The other thing I didn't like was the teenager's club, well there isn't really one as there are zero activities for them other than the 11 pm meeting on the disco everynight to which my 16 year old daughter did not go at all, actually me and her hang out together at the disco a couple of time, the point is she rather hang out with me than with the kids and I find that kind of odd at 16 they really need to have more activities, games, tournaments or something like that. The islands were all beautiful, we did the waterfalls in Samana and worth every penny we paid for it, we booked thru the cruise and this is the only way to do it. It is gorgeous. We did ATV's in St Maarten and they took us thru the town and the beach and went all the way to Orient Beach which was our favorite waters. Antigua too short but we still manage to go to Dickenson's Bay for $6.00 round trip PP and you pay when they pick you up. Bahamas is very pretty, waters were rough but still enjoyable we went to Cabbage Beach right next to Atlantis by water taxi for $6.oo PP round trip but it's better if you take a land taxi for 8.00 PP round trip because it leaves you right on the beach and we had a long walk to get to beach. The best shopping place is St Maarten they have basically the same stuff everywhere and there it's the cheapest. I bought rum, coffee, vanilla, honey and cigars in Dominican Republic. Disembarkation was okay it just depends on the color ticket you get but we were the last color and still were out by 9 or 9:30 not too bad at all. We will definitely sail MSC again. Feel free to ask if you need info, prices, etc. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2009
MSC Orchestra Easter Cruise April 11-18, 2009 I am a fairly experienced cruiser, and have been on several lines, including HAL, RCI, Carnival. NCL..most of the big ships, and a few smaller ones too. I'm a senior, who enjoys ... Read More
MSC Orchestra Easter Cruise April 11-18, 2009 I am a fairly experienced cruiser, and have been on several lines, including HAL, RCI, Carnival. NCL..most of the big ships, and a few smaller ones too. I'm a senior, who enjoys traveling solo. I drove from Tampa to the Port Everglades area, and parked at the Continental Airport Parking lot. I was a little apprehensive about leaving my keys, but the transaction went fine. The free shuttle to the port immediately took me to the port. The only downside was that they had to leave me, and my luggage about 100' from the door. Luckily, my luggage could be stacked, and has wheels, so not a big issue. I gave the porter $2, and my luggage, and walked into the port building. Embarkation: I got to the pier about 11:30. Embarkation was fairly quick. It took about 20 minutes from the front door to the Ship. It was very organized. The agents, and crew, were all smiling, and welcoming. A good way to start. The Ship: The Orchestra is a beautiful vessel. Everything was clean, and sparkling, Brass shining everywhere. I was ushered into an elevator, that was all mirrors, and brass, and taken to the 13th deck for the lunch buffet. It wasn't crowded yet. There are no trays to carry your food on....just big oval plates. It was the typical buffet, nothing to crow, or complain, about yet. I found a table, and went to get a drink. If the food had been hot, it was cool by the time I sat down to eat. After eating, I wandered down to deck 8, to find my cabin. The hallways were spotless, again everything was gleaming. The Cabin: 8189, balcony. The last cabin on the port side, before the aft cabins. Beside the full wall to the rear was a small deck, and staircase up, and down, that wasn't visited too often by passengers. OK, I've been in bigger. Cabins. It was very clean. I like the idea of putting your key-card in the electronic holder on the wall inside the cabin door, to let your attendant know if you're "home". It also helps to know where you left your key. The balcony....not too big..but typical for a newer ship. The glass panels below the rail were pretty dirty/salt sprayed. I thought they would be cleaned during the cruise.....I was wrong. By the end of the cruise there was food, or maybe a big bird "present", along most of the outside glass. The railing was in dire need of sanding, and re-finishing. The balcony deck was also pretty nasty. I spend a lot of time on my balcony, and the plastic wicker chairs have a fairly low back....not overly comfy. There was some rumble from the pods, but that was to be expected, given the location. I quickly got used to it, and slept very well. The only time it was really noisy, and super vibratory was when the side thrusters were being used.. The bed, and bedding was great, the comforter was starting to show some age. The towels were super big, and thick, but a couple of them did have some tears. Plenty of wash cloths. Just got shampoo, and bar soap. The shower is super small, and the curtain did insist on being intimate. The shower had really good volume, and pressure...plenty hot at all times. No foreign odors in the bath. The mini bar stayed at about 65 F, which was enough to keep the diet soda I brought on board [14 cans, no problem bringing them on board at all] fairly cool. I'm not sure if the storage space is enough for 2 people...I barely had room for my stuff. My cabin steward, Dani, was very efficient. There was one day the cabin didn't get made up till after 1:00 p.m., maybe it was his day off? I left my key out of the slot, and sat on the balcony. Someone did make up the room while I was out there. In the evening it was cleaned without fail while I was at dinner. The only thing was that there was no next day activities "daily", until later in the evening, which wasn't his fault. Food: Hmmm. It appears all the lines are really cutting back on the quality. I was seated at 1st seating Ibiscus dining room, I had 7 table mates at table 752. There was a beef, chicken, fish, alternative meat, and vegetarian entree choice each evening. I enjoyed all the soups. The salad was somewhat wilted, the two times I ordered it. The entrees were always hot, and for the most part ok, not really good, just ok. They had the bread already on a plate, and was usually a roll, small pencil size crunchy bread stick, and a thin slice of the bread of the day. I supposed you could ask for more, but it was never freely offered. There was little to no shrimp...shrimp cocktail only one evening. Unfortunately, I don't remember the waiter's/busboy's names. They were very cordial, and always smiling. It usually took 2 hrs for dinner...once it was 1:45. Water was regularly refilled without prompting. I can't complain about the service at all.....it just took awhile. There were a few back-to-back passengers at the table. They did try to guide us in the food choices. On the first nite I was warned about the "Lobster"......with a BIG thumbs down! [ I had already read that on Cruise Critic] When the head waiter made his visit that nite, I asked if they had a problem with the lobster. He became somewhat offensive, and asked where I had heard that. I told him Cruise Critic. He said that it was fine, and they didn't know what they were talking about. Well they did KNOW ! On "Lobster nite", once again I was warned not to get the lobster, by one who knew, but being a lobster lover , I did. I don't know how to describe what I got. It was a split lengthwise crayfish(?), Caribbean lobster. I was unable to free it from the shell, so I had to pick at it with my fork. The only pieces I could get were shredded, little pieces. One table mate refused /couldn't eat it, and sent it back, another asked the waiter to remove it from it's half shell. When she got her plate back it looked like a couple of spoonfuls of shredded tuna fish. They didn't give you drawn butter, but drizzled it over the crustacean for you. I labored with mine as long as possible, but it was not worth it. The waiter asked if I desired another....I replied it was too much like work, and I was retired, no thanks! Later in the week the tablemate who had refused to eat the "lobster" talked to the Maitre'D who informed her that the lobster was fine, and the problem was with the supplier in Miami. Hmmm, Carnival, et al, seem to do ok with the Miami supplier. STAY AWAY from the lobster, or request the night before maybe, to have it prepared differently!!! There was a lot of veal served, and lamb, which I enjoyed. The serving size was small, but you could always ask for more, without a problem. The desserts left a bit to be desired. I love chocolate....not too much to be found. I usually had ice cream with chocolate sauce. The buffet lunches, and breakfasts were typical, however, again cold by the time you got your food, found a table, and then got a coffee/drink. On sea days...good luck finding a spot to sit and eat. The rolls/breads were very good. They had hot doughnuts sometimes...yummy, but needed a sprinkle of sugar. The pizza in the evening buffet was pretty good, right out of the oven. Again buffet desserts were lacking. I guess they don't like chocolate. I would have liked to have seen Italian pastries, like canoli, or such. I didn't stay up late enough for the "midnight snacks", but heard I was better off sleeping. There was a Gala Buffet one night out on deck, but mostly cold cuts, from what I heard. Room service was good, as far as service. The first night I filled out the door hanger, and it was there on time. I decided the next morning to call when I got up, and order a pot of coffee. It was there within 10 minutes. I traveled alone, but when I asked for service for 1, it wasn't enough coffee, so I ordered for two, and got a big pot. The coffee was strong...the way I like it. I usually tipped $2. The room service menu is VERY limited. I found it in the beginning of the cabin info book. I've heard it said that you're never hungry on a cruise.....well there were times I would have liked a slice of pizza, or an ice cream, but there's nothing available after 9pm. If you miss the breakfast buffet that closed promptly at 10:30, there's nothing till noon. The gelato stand is at the bar midship deck 13. It was good, but $2 for a cone, and not always available. The Crew: Some people complained that the crew was rude. I found that the Italian officers were very aloof, and passed me by, more often than not, without a smile, or "hello", even after I initiated a "Bon giorno" . Some of the crew in the buffet area would just walk in front of you, whether or not they were carrying, or pushing anything...... in my opinion a no-no. The help should always yield to the guests/customers! The Guests: Some of the rudest I have encountered on a ship! I don't know what happened to common courtesy, it was lacking on this cruise for the most part. The pool lounges were always "taken" by towels, or other inanimate object. The showroom seats were always "saved". One lady was saving 20 seats till 10 minutes before showtime, then just walked out. Of course there were notices that there was no reserving seats in both places. There were signs on the Balcony doors stating smoking was forbidden on the balconies, and strongly discouraged in the cabins. I know my balcony neighbor understood English, since they yelled at their kids a few times, but yet had no qualms about smoking. Yes, I'm one of "those " that can't physically tolerate smoke, and have a reaction to it. I had to use a rescue inhaler the first time I encountered my ignorant neighbor. After that when somebody opened their balcony door, I had to be on alert for the smoker, and leave my balcony, so they could opt to feed their death wish, and have no disregard for the rules. Good example for their kids. I didn't mind if the kids yelled, or cried, which was very seldom, but that's what kid's do. The other balcony notice stated to keep the door closed, but another smoker down the hall decided to smoke in their cabin, but share the stench with the entire hallway since they had the balcony door open, and the smoke would get blown, forcefully, under the door. I didn't complain to the cabin stewards....they were aware of it, and were spraying the hallway often. People would cut in line, or just wedge themselves into where they wanted to be. I suppose that's everywhere though. I wish I could get away with carrying a paint gun, and mark all the morons out there...although I'm sure I'd run out of paint quickly! Entertainment: Mostly EXCELLENT ! The shows were varied. Singing, dancing, acrobats, juggler, magician, etc. No comedians...I missed that. The "Entertainers" groups of cruise directors assistant "kids" roaming the 13th deck, and other places on the ship, were funny, usually at the guests expense, but funny, none the less. The tenor was really exceptional. The blonde woman soprano was too loud, and I noticed some people wincing, like I was, at the high notes. She needs more microphone placement control. I would rather have had a "live" band, but I guess they have to cut costs where they can. The piano virtuoso was very good, and the Moonlight quartet, especially the lead violinist were superb. All in all the entertainment was 1st class, and upscale. There were many well deserved, standing ovations. I do wish they didn't shine the lights into the audience though, it was very distracting. All the lounge musicians were very good as well. The showroom was nice, with stadium seating, and comfortable seats. Disembarkation: Fairly organized using the color-coded system. I really didn't like having to be out of the cabin by 7AM YES SEVEN A.M. I left my carry-on in the room while I went up to have breakfast. Of course seats were at a premium. For whatever the reason, the food was even more cold by the time I got to sit down. I settled for a cup of coffee (by the way the cups are super small, so you may want to bring your own insulated cup, I know I'm glad I did). I went to the cabin, got my carry-on, and proceeded to the show room....my designated waiting area. When my color was called I proceeded to debark. There were MSC people to point you in the right direction. I found my luggage, and went through customs, fairly quickly. The big bottle neck was outside, where people blocked the way to get by. I called Continental Airport Parking, and they were there within ten minutes,to pick me up where they dropped me off. My vehicle was waiting for me when I got back to the lot....everything intact! Epilogue: All in all, considering the price paid, I was satisfied with the cruise. I expected a few cut corners. Again, I was mostly put off by the passengers, not MSC. I did notice that sometimes the help would just walk by a spill, or dishes in the halls, but I've seen that on other ships too. There were a lot of kids on this cruise (Kids cruise free!), but they were behaved, and not too intrusive. I would cruise MSC again, if the price was right. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Ok, we just came back from the MSC Orchestra Caribbean cruise and I must say it was fantastic! What a great time and what a great ship! All those who have complained about the food, service, friendliness, etc. of the ship, I am not sure if ... Read More
Ok, we just came back from the MSC Orchestra Caribbean cruise and I must say it was fantastic! What a great time and what a great ship! All those who have complained about the food, service, friendliness, etc. of the ship, I am not sure if you were sailing on the same boat as the rest of us. I would tend to agree with a few of the other critics here that the rudest people I encountered were the guests (all nationalities I must say). For some reason people seem to think the crew are their personal servants, yelling at them for utensils at the buffet line when they are clearly directly in front of them, yelling at the staff cleaning tables to get the manager because they were not being served self serve drinks and most appalling hearing one guest actually tell a staff member to go back to China because he couldn't meet the guests ridiculous demands. Though these were only a few minor observances, unfortunately you get these stupid people no matter where you go. Let's get to the good stuff! This was our 12th cruise and 1st with MSC. I always sail with my wife and two boys (now 8 years and 17 years). Though the kids clubs are a bit less involved than other cruises our kids don't use them anyway, so I can't really comment on that. Other than the teens took over the Disco each night which seemed to be one of the nicest clubs on the boat with a great bar you couldn't access. It was to be adults only after 9pm, however this was never enforced. We also decided to take a group of 28 other friends with us this time around; the majority were first time cruisers. What a great ship and itinerary to break them into cruising! They all have been raving about how much fun this was and how beautiful the ship was. SHIP: Clean, clean, clean. MSC Orchestra really has a beautiful setup, a bit different than other ships we have sailed with. The floor plan winds you around each deck allowing you to meander in a relaxing stroll through the shop, lounge and dinning areas. One major difference on this ship was that there are no main atrium elevators mid-ship. They have a beautiful 4 deck waterfall in which nightly music was played by live acoustic bands on a small stage within the waterfall pond. Unfortunately the ship never had the waterfall working. One unique thing, though it may sound strange, is that the restrooms all had a 'For Children Only' stall. It was a little larger with a smaller sink within the stall for the kids. I found this to be very unique and a nice touch for those traveling with family. SMOKING: As for smoking MSC has tried to cut down on the smoking areas within the ship. It was most noticeable in the Shaker Lounge, Casino and of course the Cigar Bar (which if you like cigars this was a fun and unique addition to the ship. Say hello the Beni for me!). Up on the pool decks the smokers seems to stay near the window seats and the pool areas were relatively smoke free. It would be nice to see a few less areas indoors that allow smoking, hopefully in time. FOOD: Having been on 12 cruises now I have not found one cruise to be fantastic when it comes to mass dinning food. I would say that MSC was comparable to food I have had on Disney, Carnival or Royal Caribbean. One thing to keep in mind if you want your steak done medium, order it medium rare. Medium seems to be Well Done on this ship. With any ship a few featured plates stand out as very good. The lamb was excellent! Leg of lamb as well as the lamb chops were my favorite. If you really want a bit more elegant and made to order dinning the Shanghais Chinese restaurant was wonderful! Prices were by dish and at a price point similar to a standard restaurant of an average of $8.00 per dish. The food was very flavorful and one of the best reserved dinning on a cruise ship I have experienced. The buffets were laid out nicely with lunch service being served on both sides of the ships restaurant. One side of the ship with more hot dishes such as carved roast beef (was awesome!), carved pork, ham and veal, fish dishes, Italian specialties, pasta, etc. The other side more traditional American fair such as burgers and dogs, fries, etc. The burgers were by far the best cruise ship burgers I have had. The salad bar was also one of the largest I have seen on a ship, very nice. All the food was well presented and labeled nicely as to what was in each dish and the country of its origin. There are two main buffet stations, one forward of the restaurant and the other towards the back, both serving the same food. The crowds were all at the front buffet and many guests did not seem to realize that if they walked a little further no one was in the back of the restaurant. We did this each morning and at lunch and never had to wait in a line of more than 5 people for food. Pizza bar was great and the pizza was very tasty. The Gelato Bar was molto bene! The coffee gelato especially. Being from New England we like our coffee milk, coffee ice cream, coffee shakes and this coffee gelato was great! CABINS: No complaints. We had an outside window and it was comparable to other ships, other than Disney that has the largest I have ever seen. The porthole style window was large enough for me to sit in (5'11", 210 lbs), very nice! SERVICE: In general I can say everyone was a pleasure to speak to and all were very helpful. No one was ever rude. At times some crew members may take a minute to register what you are saying, but this is a typical language barrier thing and as long as you understand that cruise ships are full of a wide variety of nationalities it all works out fine. I too was impressed with the multilingual experience of the crew. Our waiter and assistant waiter were phenomenal! They were a bit stiff on the first night (think they were nervous), but once we got to talking with them they really opened up and we had a great time joking and learning about each others cultures. Dinning each night was a typical 2-hours, but never longer than this. Room Steward was great. Very courteous and always had a smile. He was great with our kids and always made sure we had fresh ice and towels. Anytime we left the room he was in cleaning. He must have cleaned our room 5 times a day!! POOL: We did spend a great deal of time at the pools and hot tubes as a group. Yes, chairs were hard to come by, but again, having been on 12 cruises this is the same on any ship, especially with the days at sea. Everyone goes to the people and you always have discourteous people who block off chairs for the day. This is unfortunate, but you need to make the best of difficult situations. We just put our towels at the benches pool side and jumped in and sat in the great wading areas around the pool. It was truly very nice, relaxing and helped keep you cool during the hot days. I did not notice the pools themselves to be crowed to the point you couldn't go in for a dip and I did not find anyone in the pool areas to be discourteous, rude or unsafe as one critic stated. Yes, people were sitting around the pool with drinks and beer, but everyone we saw and talked to were polite, being cautious and enjoying themselves. I did not see anyone who was drunk or disorderly at the pool. There was none of the rowdy party crowd you see on other cruise lines either; i.e. Carnival. Even the kids seemed to be well mannered for the most part. As for the one person who stated more management of the pool areas should have been done, I am not sure I agree and if it was so bad why did this person not tell the staff when she was on the ship? ENTERTAINMENT: The shows each night were terrific! Some of the best entertainment I have seen on a cruise. Very talented entertainers and well choreographed shows. For those complaining about 'thongs' and your poor children's eyes, get them out of the closet, take the blinders off and get them cultured! This was nothing different than if you went to a Rockets at Radio City Music Hall in NYC or any other Broadway or Vegas style show. Their was more skin on the pool deck that in the nightly entertainment. As for deck side entertainment this was much less than other cruises, but was there if you wanted something to do. Typical trivia contests, putting contests, Bingo, etc. Otherwise this was more a relax and kick your feet up cruise. First ship I have seen with a full tennis court. It was funny to eat breakfast in the back of the ship and occasionally see a tennis ball fall down to the back dinning deck. PORTS of CALL: Great stops and great weather! The only complaint is I wish we had more time in places like Nassau, Antigua, and St. Martin etc. Only 5-hours (4 for getting on and off the ship) is not much time .maybe MSC can cut one stop out to give more time to the other ports of call? We had a great time in each port and only one stop in the D.R. was tendered and this went extremely smooth. Very well managed by the crew, two thumbs up!! Shopping in Nassau is always a good time and the Straw Market proved to be the best stop as always. 3 designer bags for $30 - $35 each was fun to barter for for the lady's and the people are so friendly. If you have never experienced the Nassau Straw Market you need to check it out. EMBARKATION and DEBARKATION: Both were very quick, easy and run smoothly. MSC does need to put a little money into their cruise terminal as it is currently run through a warehouse, but it was done very well. We were on and off the ship very quickly and this was one of the easiest of any cruise line we have done. Taxis are not that easy to get from the terminal when leaving. I would suggest arranging transportation before you get on the boat for when you return, either through your hotel, a bus transfer through MSC or a call ahead taxi or car service. OVERALL: A great experience and we would sail MSC again. This is certainly a different kind of cruising with a more relaxed European feel. Be prepared to do nothing and enjoy every minute of it!! Great job MSC and with a few more tweaks I think you will be able to carve a unique niche in the U.S. cruise market!! P.S. MSC = Folded towel animals and a chocolate on the pillow are little cruise extras that can help you go that extra mile! hint, hint Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Everyday we were on this ship the crew and services provided pushed us to know we would rather cruise on any other cruise line. English: The language barrier was very problematic. Crew members yell on the phone when they don't ... Read More
Everyday we were on this ship the crew and services provided pushed us to know we would rather cruise on any other cruise line. English: The language barrier was very problematic. Crew members yell on the phone when they don't understand you. Dining room staff act like they understand what you are ordering, only to not bring what you requested at all or bring something else. We had several issues we needed to figure out with the crew, but eventually we just gave up asking questions because we couldn't get anywhere in the conversation. Food: My family lost weight on this cruise! The food was the worst I've ever tasted - my 13 year old said that school lunch is better. Costa Cruise Line had a real Italian dining experience. Celebrity's Century had amazing food also. If eating is one of the pleasures you are looking for on a cruise vacation DO NOT cruise on this ship. The pizzeria closes at 9:00 pm. Room service is your only option until breakfast and only has two horrible cold sandwiches, salad, soup, fruit, dessert of the day and coffee available (not even milk is available). You can only order breakfast room service items at breakfast time. The buffets had many choices, but they were not appetizing. Also, on one day the crew handled chicken, hamburgers and hotdogs without gloves while they were preparing the food on the grill. There is no omelet bar for breakfast. Eat in the dining room if you do go! Ports: Book excursions! We did not book any excursions and that was a mistake. The ports were ghetto. Cayo Levantado has a good beach - but nothing else. Antigua had even less - the streets were dirty, shopping VERY limited and expensive, port buildings were deserted and locals pressure for taxi rides. St. Maarten & Nassau were okay, but we were only in Nassau for 4 hours. Recreation: The fitness area has good equipment - crowded at various times. The tennis and basketball courts are one and the same so finding it available was nearly impossible. Table tennis - unbelievable the ship only had one ball and three tables. We gave up trying to play. Teens: Disco was very dangerous. The 13-18 year olds are allowed to socialize with adults and crew members. Alcohol was flowing and several youth were drunk. Other cruise lines have structured teen activities and protection from inappropriate behavior. Cabin: We had an immediate issue with our cabin. We agree that the ship is for the most part very clean, but smoking in cabins is discouraged, but allowed. Our cabin had such an smell that we refused to stay in it. (We traveled with an infant.) After complaining to 5 different people and saying that we would rather get off the ship than stay in the room for 7 days and pay good money for it, they moved us to another cabin. As far as cabin stewards, ours was okay, but my teenage girls (18 & 13) had a steward who entered the room several times while they were sleeping and after they had said they did not need anything - also they went through their clothes items re-folded and moved them. Embarkation: The quickest I've ever seen! Disembarkation: We requested an earlier time and they honored our request...it only took about 20 minutes. (I have been on 6 cruises - Costa, Celebrity, Carnival & MSC - this is the first review I've ever written and I only write it as a warning for anyone reading this (like I did) to try and protect you from the disappointment and feeling of money not well spent that my family has now.) Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
The food was okay, at best. The port stays were abysmal, and not as long as noted in the itinerary...in Nassau we only had about 3 1/2 hours. The staff were often rude, with some bright exceptions. Lack of concern or support in receiving ... Read More
The food was okay, at best. The port stays were abysmal, and not as long as noted in the itinerary...in Nassau we only had about 3 1/2 hours. The staff were often rude, with some bright exceptions. Lack of concern or support in receiving and solving issues. This is true both on the ship and at the MSC Cruises head office. Lots of rules that never actually did anything...like the disembarkation number for the shuttle boat, they never actually checked it and when our group got inadvertently split up we were told the number didn't matter, we could get on any boat to port we wanted. The shows were pretty good, except for the sound system that ruined the Opera night. The ship is very, very clean. We travelled with some great friends who made it easy to laugh at all the crazy things we were subjected to. Our trip was booked in a fairly large group, although we only knew 3 other families in the group. Several members of our group purchased a "forfeit" drink deal that our agent had worked out when booking the cruise. We arrived at the port around 3:00, were on the ship quickly and settled in to have a cocktail while we were waiting to leave port. We noticed that the bartender was rude...but our excitement over came that. The bartender noted the sticker indicating our drink deal on our card, but asked us to sign a room charge slip any way. When questioned he said that it would all be taken care of later. Several drinks later we started to hear rumors that there was a problem with the drink package. We resolved to go to the information desk the next morning to find out what the issue was. At the desk, we were told that there was a problem with some people paying for the package. We had the credit slip to confirm our payment and were told not to worry. But all day we kept hearing more and more rumbling. As it turns out, the department that deals with drinks on the boat determined that a bad deal had been made and they were not going to honor the original agreement. After several visits to the desk, we were told that they would honor the deal on a limited basis and that we would be expected to pay for day one's drinks. The deal cost $398CAD, fairly substantial, so we were not very happy with this. We asked several times to speak to the head purser and were told at first no, but when they figured we would not go away we were told they would call with an appointment. That call never came. The food was mediocre at best. I have read comments that rave about the food, suggesting that those who don't like it are too used to Olive Garden Italian food. I can tell you that is not the case. The food is mediocre, generally not hot, definitely not Italian cuisine. Often, the pizza was the best option, though it was frequently burnt. Also, many of the "salad" dishes on the lunch buffet looked like they were actually made up of left overs from previous meals. Our dinner waiter was lovely and very attentive. Several times he went to herculean efforts to provide us with food that was actually cooked properly, but to no avail. Steaks were never delivered as ordered. Vegetables were often cooked to mush. Desserts...well, lets just say that the only bright spot is the gelato served on deck that you have to pay for. On the 2nd gala night he attempted to bring us a lobster that was not overcooked and tasteless...brought 3 plates of lobster over in an attempt to get the least overcooked. His attempt failed and I ended up eating the last one because I felt sorry for him. The port stays were very frustrating. None were long enough to truly enjoy where you were or do any exploring. Best bet: Antigua, pay one of the taxi drivers to take you to a secluded beach. They will take you to a beautiful beach where they have an arrangement with a friend and it will likely have a drink/meal hut with very friendly service and a clean stretch of Caribbean post card beach. Many staff members were cold bordering on rude, and some where outright rude. And, if they think that they can make jokes and disparaging remarks about guests on the ship without being understood, they should think twice...many of us speak more than just English! Some of the staff did get real attentive about 2 days before the cruise was finished. One staff member actually said to my husband "don't pay for a Chevette and expect a Ferrari" ! Now really, what does that say about how (at least some) of the staff feels about the ship and the guests on it? We did not pay for a Chevette, we paid for what we thought was a reasonable deal for a new ship trying to gain a reputation. Some reputation. In the library, we asked what the hours were. The response: it changes...okay, but what hours can we come back...the response: when it is open. Doh! The kids programs, while well talked about and frequently noted in the daily events paper, seemed non-existent. Every time we took the kids (11-14) to partake in any of the events noted, there was no one to be found running any thing. The teen get together turned out to be a bunch of teens sitting around some tables in a brightly lit disco. Also, it was near impossible to get onto any of the sports areas, primarily due to lack of equipment. A couple of the kids went down to get pingpong balls for the two tables and they were told it was too late in the day and that there was only one ball any way. I thought our cabin person was outstanding. Until, that is, I found out that other cabins in our group received fresh fruit every day, cotton house coats and a complimentary bottle of wine. We received none of this. Additionally, we were in such a hurry to leave the ship, my husband left his suit in the closet. We would have expected the cabin staff to have turned it in. Over 3 weeks later, having tried for the first two just to get a response from MSC Cruises head office, we were finally advised that they had no suit in their lost and found. In case you think the suit issue is limited to our experience, another in our group whose cabin was at the other end of the ship with a different cabin crew also left their suit on board and they have run into the same issues. The line up at the accounting desk started the day before the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale (actually, the complaint line started way before that!). There were a lot of frustrated and angry people in that line. It was taking about and hour to an hour and a half to review receipts etcetera. Even so, we were glad we spent that time the night before. Some members of our group were doing it the morning of and the scene was even uglier. The icing on the cake was the shuttle bus back to our parking. We were talking about the "adventure" and having a general relieved giggle at what we had just experienced. After about 10 minutes of this, the shuttle driver hollered out "Just got off the Orchestra did you?" We asked how he knew that and he said that he has done that drive for a long time, and for the past 3 months or so, every person he picks up at the end of a cruise who is complaining is coming from the Orchestra. He said he feels bad when he is taking people to the ship because it was too late for him to give the advice to choose another line...in his words..."any other line". I can honestly say, in over 25 years of travelling, sometimes in luxury sometimes not, I have never had a bad vacation. Until now. Luckily the company and some bright spots made up for this ships clear shortcomings. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
This was our second cruise (previous with NCL) and even though we are not cruise veterans we consider ourselves world travelers. As educators and musicians we take off for the summer and go to South America and Europe for extended stays. ... Read More
This was our second cruise (previous with NCL) and even though we are not cruise veterans we consider ourselves world travelers. As educators and musicians we take off for the summer and go to South America and Europe for extended stays. We love to go to fine restaurants and to nice resorts. We also like the great value for the money a vacation on a cruise represent. As such we were extremely pleased with our sailing on the MSC Orchestra Eastern Caribbean sailing on March 28, 2009. We have been in some of the best restaurants in New York, Paris, São Paulo, Belgrade, Rio de Janeiro, etc. As a rule, we have never spent less than $ 200 on a meal for two people, no matter the exchange rate or the particular economic situation of the country being visited. Would we expect to have the same quality of food on a cruise as we had in places such as the Taillevant, Jean Georges, or DOM restaurants just to name a few? Absolutely not; especially when we consider that we paid less than $ 2000 for 7 nights balcony for two adults and two kids on the MSC Orchestra. We say that because the food issue seems to be a contentious one in all cruise lines. Granted, food preferences are subjective and while we would say we had some better meals at NCL than at MSC, the reverse is also true. In fact, we found the food to be the equivalent of the one served in a five star hotel during a gala event. What we liked about the MSC Orchestra food was the fact that it was low in sodium and not very spicy. We also liked the fact that it tasted fresh and well prepared. We never went hungry and even gained some weight. Actually, after reading so many negative reviews about the food on this cruise, we were pleasantly surprised. On to other issues: embarkation was so expedite that we were on the boat 10 minutes after arriving on the ship. Cabin and ship: The whole place was extremely clean. I felt the cabin's dEcor to be a bit bland (too neutral), but the lounges and theatre were extremely well decorated and tasteful. Pool: The pool deck is divided into two areas, so one does not have the illusion of an expansive deck as in other ships. However, the deck is cleverly divided so that all entertainment activities by the pool are undertaken in one side of the deck so passengers who do not want to participate in them can just relax by the other pool. With that said, the entertainment team aboard the Orchestra was the best we have ever encountered and we looked forward to seeing them every morning. They were mostly Italians and had a histrionic sense of humor. They spoke many languages and were nice to the older folks and took them to dance in the evening. Service: Very friendly and caring. Although we place no importance to this, we met our cabin steward upon arrival. We had fresh fruit on a bowl the first evening but that was never replenished. Did that bothered us? Absolutely not. There was always plenty of fruit in the buffet and we ate more of their delicious desserts than we did of fruits. Turn down was done efficiently and whenever we left the room someone came and cleaned it up in a second. Service in the restaurant was also very good and we had all our dinners in the main dining room. Dress code was not enforced but on formal nights but many men wore tuxes and women nice dresses. Ice water was provided free of charge and the wine package is a real good deal. Unfortunately, the premium Italian wine package is no longer available and only California wines are packaged. We complained to the sommelier and he told us MSC was trying to cater to the American clientele in the Caribbean. That is really unfortunate and we hope they return to offer Italian wines in their packages in the future. They also had beer and cocktail packages; all very well priced. Espresso and macchiato were consistently good and properly served. If one likes to drink coffee by the liter and with a lot of sweet additions to it, this is not the place. Shows: They was lot of talent onboard. Unfortunately there was no actual orchestra onboard but the singers did not lip-sang. All the shows were tastefully done and geared to a wide range of audience interest. The light classical piano quartet that played on the main lobby was especially good and relaxing. Ambiance: Very relaxed and family friendly. We particularly liked the fact that there were no waiters passing by with ready-made cocktails to sell by the pools. That was a major difference from the NCL cruise and there was no "wild party" atmosphere on the Orchestra. Kids clubs: My daughters liked the company of other kids so they enjoyed being at the kids clubs. We found though the mini was much better handled than the junior and our older daughter would surely have liked to have more activities such as arts and crafts. We complained about this on the comment card and as we have read the same comment on posts here we are confident this situation will improve. Ports: Unlike other posts who complained about late arrivals, according to our booking documents, we arrived early in most ports, sometimes by one hour. We did not take any shore excursions since we only wanted beach breaks (we see enough historical monuments in South America and Europe every year) and we just took cabs upon arrival. We have to say that there was always somebody from MSC on the pool deck prior to our arrival at the ports to inform you about the best beaches, how to get to them, what to avoid, etc. Fellow cruisers: Mostly Americans, some Canadians and Europeans. Most of them very polite, although there was a fair share of complainers. What we liked about this cruise is that there were lots of kids and seniors but not too many rowdy teens. Overall impression: We loved the overall ambiance, value, and international flavor of MSC Orchestra. We have already made reservations for the Poesia in March 2010! Sure, we found that the MSC brand is not for everybody. Here are some tips about whom should avoid it (Without passing any judgment): -Travelers who enjoy the endless party atmosphere of lines such as Carnival, RCL, and NCL. -Travelers who need 24 hour food and unlimited soda packages. -Travelers who like to be greeted by workers every time they are crossed by one; who like little chocolates under the pillows placed by the stewards; who only like one kind of cuisine. -Travelers with kids who need over the top activities onboard such as ice skating and rock wall climbing. Other than that, most people would enjoy the great value offered by MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
We looked forward to trying an Italian cruise line without any preconceptions. We have cruised for many years and have been on most of the cruise lines during our more than 25 trips. We found a company who didn't care what happened to ... Read More
We looked forward to trying an Italian cruise line without any preconceptions. We have cruised for many years and have been on most of the cruise lines during our more than 25 trips. We found a company who didn't care what happened to us while on a vacation. We booked a cabin with a balcony at the very back of the ship. Never did that before. We loved the quiet and the need to walk to our cabin. Gave us some exercise. The cabin was nice with lots of places to store our stuff. The ship is beautiful but it is hard to find the bathrooms which are tucked into corners. There is so much brass that there are several people who only shine the brass all day long. When walking down the staircases you get the polish onto your hands. Not a big deal. Our itinerary was flawed. We were in Nassau for just a couple of hours. We pulled into Antigua at 5 pm supposedly because there was another MSC cruise ship in that port and we had to wait for them to leave. We were supposed to get into that port at 2 PM also very late, but 5 PM is ridiculous. The cruise line wouldn't cancel the tours, so our friends had to go, in the night, to tour the rain forest. They returned to the ship to no food unless they wanted to pay for a drink or ice cream. They close the kitchen at 9:00 PM. You cannot even get room service unless you want some chocolate covered strawberries or drinks. (which you have to pay for) They have some midnight buffets, but not all of us stay up that late. We had first seating so after looking for food the first night and being told we couldn't get anything except coffee or tea we started hoarding food in our cabin. Food on board was OK. Very small portions in the dining room but mostly OK. Several meals I had the steak because I didn't like what they had on the menu, which was done properly. I have to say that the two shining lights of the crew were our room steward Ida, and the assistant Maitre D Mario. Both went out of their way to make us happy. We went to their "private island" where we had to pay for everything we ate or drank. It turns out that the island is not private, such as NCLs, but is rented from Dominican Republic and the natives want to make money by charging us for food and drinks. We went back to the ship for lunch. The shows and music were shaded toward a European audience not an American one. There was one night of Opera, another of concerto and one very good magician. Not usually my taste but he was good. There were lots of places to sit and drink but the lounges had 1940's music with very little to dance to. Also, lots of smoke in the lounges and casino. We were with a group of about 350 people with our own shows and entertainment, thank goodness. The casino rules are European not American which can be very confusing. There were not enough 1 cent and 5 cent machines so people had to line up to use them. The crew was surly, rude and never smiled. Everyone agreed that they were cold and aloof. When you complained about, even something small, they did not help but gave you a hard time. Nothing was easy everything was your fault. When I had a question about my internet account they never got back to me and eventually I found that the rude, nasty person at reception was ill prepared and gave me a very hard time. The instructions that were given to me about how to use the internet were not complete and they insisted that it was my fault. OK, the $50 won't hurt me but it is just one more reason I would not use this line again. Finally, when we disembarked no one told us that we were in a different part of the port and couldn't find where our car was located. We finally had to call emergency and they told us we had to take a bus to our car. There is such a lack of communication. Obviously, our expectations were not met and we came away with a very bad taste from the indifference and callousness of this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Last month my wife Carol and I sailed aboard the MSC Orchestra to the ports of Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado, a lovely beach island located in beautiful Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. Our primary reason for ... Read More
Last month my wife Carol and I sailed aboard the MSC Orchestra to the ports of Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado, a lovely beach island located in beautiful Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. Our primary reason for doing so, other than the need for a relaxing week at sea, was to see how the product that MSC Cruises is currently offering compares to that of the more well-known cruise lines which have been sailing in the Caribbean for many years. In order to gather as much information as possible I took notes throughout the cruise, we collected all daily programs and other related literature, and with two trained pairs of eyes observing as much as possible, we attempted to see and experience as much as we could. We spoke to many of our fellow passengers to get their positive and negative opinions of their cruising experience. In addition, we had numerous extremely beneficial conversations with members of the onboard staff to gain even more insight into what the cruise line has been trying to accomplish, what problems have been encountered, and how it has been going about its tasks until this time. Our general conclusion, after a week at sea which overall was truly quite an enjoyable experience, is that MSC definitely has the potential to be an excellent cruise line. We determined that while a number of aspects of the cruise were truly exceptional there is much improvement needed in certain critical areas in order to reach the overall level of their competitors. After spending a week onboard, experiencing virtually every aspect of an MSC cruise, and returning home armed with a great deal of in-depth knowledge, we would certainly sail with them again and you will probably have a fine time as well if you choose to do so. In order to increase the probability of your having a good experience you need to know what to expect onboard, MSC's strengths and weaknesses, and, most importantly, how to work around certain potentially problematical areas that you may encounter. As described below, I will be reviewing and analyzing, in as objective a manner as possible, numerous aspects of our experience on the MSC Orchestra. Throughout this review high marks and accolades will be given without hesitation when they are deserved, and where shortcomings exist or when criticism is warranted it will be presented in an equally objective manner. Hopefully this rather lengthy review (would you expect otherwise), will accomplish its goal and I am always available to answer any questions that you might have and provide you with additional information about the Orchestra or MSC cruises in general. EMBARKATION This was the first area where the information provided by the representatives at MSC's offices and in their cruise documents was contradicted by what actually occurred at the cruise terminal. For starters, the MSC Orchestra sails from Ft. Lauderdale at 7 P.M. which is considerably later than most of the other ships that leave from Port Everglades. Their office staff told me that boarding would begin at 4 P.M. one time and at 2 P.M. during another call. In either case, one could have concluded that the late boarding might be intentionally done by the cruise line in order to avoid having to serve the traditional lunch buffet that is offered on every other ship. This assumption, however, would turn out to be completely false. I later discovered that all disembarking passengers are usually off the ship by 10:15 A.M. or so, and that subject to unforeseen delays boarding generally begins between 11:00 and 11:30 A.M. Obviously, this is an area where the major discrepancy between MSC's verbal information, their printed cruise documents, and what actually occurs at the cruise terminal needs to be eliminated. Since we live only about a 30 minute drive from Port Everglades we arrived at the port around Noon and were onboard before 12:30 P.M. Once inside the terminal the boarding process was as quick and seamless as we have experienced with any other cruise line. The check-in counter was manned by 35 individuals and it was no more than 15 minutes from the time that we entered the terminal until we actually boarded the ship. CRUISE IDENTIFICATION CARDS When you check in at the terminal each passenger is given their cruise card which, typically, is used for identification purposes when you leave or board the ship, serves as your stateroom key, and is used as a credit card for purchases that will be billed to your onboard account. These cards also show your assigned dining room and table number. Most disturbingly, however, MSC's cards also show your stateroom number. This is, in my opinion, a major error and one which, should a card be misplaced and subsequently found by another passenger or crew member, may result in a severe breach of security. Obviously, finding a card with an actual stateroom number would enable someone with nefarious intentions to enter a person's cabin and then damage or steal valuable personal possessions. I have sent this recommendation to MSC's home office and hopefully they will soon change the printing of their I.D. cards so that the stateroom numbers are eliminated. OUR STATEROOM We had a Superior Balcony stateroom located on Deck 10 which measured 191 square feet in size plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony. As far as the other accommodations on the Orchestra the Inside and Ocean View Cabins are 150 sq. ft., Standard Balconies measure 164 sq. ft. plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony, and the Balcony Suites are 278 sq. ft. plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony which is about the size of a mini-suite on a Princess or Royal Caribbean ship. There are, however, no larger Owner's or Penthouse Suites on the ship. The Orchestra was launched in 2007, weighs in at 92,400 tons, carries 2550 passengers at double occupancy but has a maximum passenger capacity of 3,103 when all of the triples and quads are included. The ship has a crew of 987 and this 3:1 passenger-to-crew ratio, as I will discuss at numerous times later in this review, is simply not adequate to provide the level of service that a passenger should expect on a large, ultra-modern cruise ship. MSC continues to promote family cruising quite vigorously by only charging the government taxes for all children age 17 or under who travel as the 3rd or 4th passengers in your stateroom. On our cruise, for example, kids sailed for the entire week for only $ 97.40 apiece!!! Upon close examination of our accommodations we were most pleasantly surprised. The cabin was impeccably clean upon our arrival, it was beautifully decorated with a primarily navy blue patterned carpet and bedspread and the furniture and cabinetry was done in a medium brown veneer dEcor. There was a huge floor-to-ceiling mirror across from the bed, a two-cushion couch which could be converted to a bed for a third passenger, a small cocktail table, two nightstands with reading lamps and drawers, and a desk/vanity table across from the couch with a large mirror. The cabin had ample closet and drawer space, an in-closet safe with a handy shelf, and a flat screen television set that sits on top of a cabinet which holds a fully-stocked mini-bar. The balcony, which was small but certainly adequate, included two faux-wicker arm chairs and a square wicker table. The pure white bathroom has the typical shelf space and a good-size cabinet under the sink for additional storage. The shower is small but definitely similar in size to that which is found on many other ships. It includes an excellent hand-held showerhead and a three-inch high barrier on the floor which completely prevents any unwanted flooding. The shower and the sink had exceptionally strong water pressure and virtually instantaneous hot water which never varied throughout the cruise. The towels and wash cloths were of excellent quality, large and soft, and whenever they were left on the floor or in the sink they were promptly replaced by our cabin steward. As far as bathroom amenities MSC only provides a few small bottles of shampoo for their passengers. Unfortunately no hair conditioner is provided nor is there a typical basket of hand and body lotions or a shower cap such as you find on most other cruise lines. The addition of these items, whose cost is certainly quite nominal, would certainly make a good impression on MSC's passengers and they should definitely be considered by the cruise line. One excellent feature of the cabin, which naturally was noticed by Carol, was that the cabin lighting was bright, perfectly positioned, easily adjustable, and significantly better overall than one finds on other ships. There have, however, been numerous inaccurate postings on the Internet about the operation of the lights in the cabins so here is some clarification. When you enter your stateroom there is a slot in a box on the wall across from the closets for you to insert your I.D.Card/Room Key. When you do so all of the lights in the cabin will go on simultaneously and you can then turn those in any area on or off using the wall switches. Inserting your card also activates a signal light which is located outside of your cabin. This light tells your cabin steward that you are inside your cabin so he will not enter to do any of his housekeeping chores. When you leave your stateroom you remove your I.D. card and take it with you. Doing this turns off all of the lights in the cabin within a few minutes, which is an excellent energy saving feature, and it also turns off the signal light in the corridor. This tells your cabin steward that you have vacated the cabin and that he is now free to clean or deliver any cruise related literature without disturbing you. As far as the air conditioning in the cabin it is controlled by a separate thermostat, has no relationship to the operation of the lights, and it operates continually whether or not you are in your stateroom. CABIN STEWARD & ROOM SERVICE Our cabin steward was extremely friendly and proficient at his job and any special requests that we made of him were taken care of promptly. A number of times we found him working a few cabins down the hall and when we asked him to take care of something in our cabin he often stopped what he was doing to handle our request and then went back to work in the other stateroom. Because of the clever corridor light signal system the cabin stewards on our deck were able to take care of their housekeeping chores as soon as passengers left their staterooms. Whenever we went for breakfast, for example, our stateroom was cleaned in its entirety upon our return. Obviously, we can only judge MSC's housekeeping system by our experience with one cabin steward, but our observations of the other stewards who were assigned to the cabins in our corridor left the impression that their system is well designed and works extremely well. MSC's nightly turndown service, while certainly efficient in every regard, was a bit disappointing in that it did not include the traditional pillow chocolate or any towel animals. Perhaps the cabin stewards make the towel animals in those cabins where children are staying but the cruise line really has no excuse for cutting corners by eliminating the chocolates. We ordered coffee and some pastry items every night before retiring for delivery the following morning. You do this in the usual manner by completing a form and hanging on the door knob outside your cabin before you retire for the evening. This form enables you to select a delivery time, starting at 7:30 A.M. and then in 15 minutes intervals thereafter. I would always circle 7:30 A.M. to have our order delivered as early as possible, and without fail our food was delivered between 7:20 and 7:30 A.M. every morning of our cruise. MSC's Room Service menu, which along with the breakfast order forms is found inside a blue ship guidebook in the cabin, is an area where a great deal of improvement is needed. The options are extremely limited and definitely need to be expanded to match those offered by other cruise lines. The one time that we did order from room service the item which was requested, a fruit and cheese platter, was extremely skimpy and included only three small slices of cheese, two packages of crackers, and a meager five grapes. The staff also forgot to send napkins and there was no knife included to spread the cheese on the crackers. OVERVIEW OF THE SHIP Without a doubt the MSC Orchestra is a beautifully decorated ship where every public area exudes a sense of style, class, and the ambiance of a modern, upscale resort hotel. The interior design of the ship's public rooms and staterooms was done by the Giuseppe De Jorio Company in Genoa, Italy, and the fabrics used for the chairs, couches, draperies, and window treatments are designed and manufactured in Milan. Truly outstanding in every way, the color schemes flow perfectly through the interior public areas and within each individually themed lounge. The ship is also extraordinarily clean and during recent surprise inspections it, along with other ships in the MSC fleet, scored a perfect 100 which is truly outstanding in the cruise industry. Between the constant polishing of the brass railings, the rapid clearing of dining tables at the buffet restaurant and by the pool, the vacuuming of hallways and public areas, and the placement of dozens of hand sanitizer dispensers, the appearance and cleanliness of the Orchestra is obviously a top priority. The ship has four elevator banks where the visual feeling of the landings is expanded tremendously by using lots of mirrors and brass to offset the beautiful marble trim and flooring, perfectly coordinated carpeting, and attractively patterned brown veneer walls. The colors are restful and this style of decorating is used in many areas of the ship to provide an open and expansive appearance. Forest green, accented by brass and wood, is a common color scheme in many of the public lounges. The three-story atrium, which features a faux waterfall as the artistic focus, is decorated with lots of glass along with gleaming brass accents and railings. The floors, columns and curving staircases are made of light colored marble of various patterns and textures. The center of the main level of the atrium features a piano and bandstand where the classical string quartet or the folkloric trio from Ecuador performs, and the comfortable wood accented furniture is offset by forest green fabrics. There are a number of boutiques on the second level of the atrium. These include the mandatory logo and sundries shop, some upscale clothing retailers, and numerous watch and jewelry shops including an actual branch of Colombian Emeralds. The main information desk is located on the first level of the atrium along with a number of large casual sitting areas and bars. The shore excursion desk, where the port and excursion literature is printed in five languages, is located on the second level of the atrium. This area is supplemented by a number of video screens which constantly play movies about the ship, its route and current location, the ports of call, and the numerous shore excursion options. Curiously, there was no future cruise consultant on the ship to assist passengers in booking future cruises nor were there any brochures or any other promotional literature on display. When you leave the atrium and head towards the front of the ship you will find a number of bars and entertainment lounges, a small card room and library, the casino, a specialty Chinese restaurant and, of course, the main show lounge at the very front of the ship. Heading towards the rear of the ship from the atrium one enters the two dining rooms on the lower levels, while from the third level of the atrium you will find the photo gallery, the wine bar, the sports bar, the cigar room, and another large show lounge at the rear of the ship. The public decks of the ship are numbered from 5 up to 15 and the areas noted above are found on Decks 5, 6, and 7. The pool, buffet restaurant, spa and fitness center, and another specialty restaurant are located on Deck 13. Deck 14 includes the children's pool, game and playroom center, a jogging and sunning deck, and the discotheque in the rear of the ship. Deck 15 offers a miniature golf course, shuffleboard, and deck quoits. GRATUITIES MSC charges $ 12 per person, per day for gratuities and this amount will be placed on your shipboard account towards the latter part of your cruise. The daily gratuity charge covers the services of your cabin steward, waiter, busboy, and, apparently, every other member of their onboard staff. Most interestingly, however, MSC does not add the traditional 15% gratuity to any of their bar drinks, sodas, wines sold by the bottle or by the glass, or to the price of their specialty coffees or home-made gelato at the pool deck. When you order a bottle of wine or a drink the receipt does not even include a space to add your own gratuity even if you wanted to. Obviously, not having to pay the extra 15% gratuity will certainly be quite a money saver over the course of an entire cruise. From what we were told, Europeans would stage a general revolt if a gratuity was automatically added to the price of anything that they ate or drank. Because of this, MSC has kept the policy of no automatic gratuity in place on all of their Caribbean cruises and the prices of their bar drinks and wines are extremely nominal. INTERNET CENTER The Internet Center is located adjacent to the third level of the atrium. This is an ultra-modern area with 18 terminals located at individual desks or on circular counters surrounded by bar stool-like seats. This area is decorated in silver and grey brushed aluminum and is accented with purple carpeting and ultra-modernistic light purple lighting. To open your Internet account you simply insert your room key into a box located next to the monitor or on the front of the desk of your desired terminal. As always, the speed of your Internet connection will vary depending upon the positioning of the communication satellites. The first time that I used this facility the connection was painfully slow, yet when I switched to one of the desks the following day the connection was quite satisfactory and it remained that way for the remainder of the cruise. The Internet service is priced at 50 cents per minute however this rate is only applicable to the first 10 minutes that you log on to use the service. After that the price is reduced to 40 cents per minute for all of the additional minutes that you use. A record of your usage briefly appears on your monitor after you log off and all of the daily charges were accurately reflected on our shipboard account. MAIN ENTERTAINMENT VENUES The Covent Garden Lounge is the main theater onboard where the nightly shows are presented. It features a creative variable color lighting design on the walls and ceiling, an excellent sound system, and some unique visual effects which are employed during many of the production shows. The seats, while no where as oppressively tight as those found in many Broadway theatres, have seat cushions which are not especially comfortable and leg room could certainly be a bit more generous. The best visibility is found in the orchestra which slopes upward quite adequately from the stage to the rear exits. Visibility in the balcony is very problematical in many areas with your view potentially blocked by railings, Plexiglas barriers, a few support poles, and a number of entry staircases. The Savannah Bar is one of the largest combination bar, live music, and entertainment venues that I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Beautifully decorated in a jungle motif it is definitely the hot spot on the ship for live music, dancing and dance lessons, and numerous unique and very entertaining contests. The bar is huge and the cocktail waitress service is excellent. The room is always packed after dinner and you will definitely want to spend part of every evening in this lounge. Most of the music in this location is provided by the Ocean Band which is an exceptionally good four-piece band for all types of dancing. This band also backs up the extremely popular daily dance lessons as well as the contests and musical games that are hosted by members of the ship's entertainment staff. The Amber Piano Bar is located adjacent to the Savannah Bar. It is a lovely venue where music for dancing or your listening pleasure is provided by a duo or a solo piano player. Live music generally begins around five o'clock in the late afternoon and continues until one o'clock in the early morning. This room and the Savannah Bar are also used for activities such as Trivia contests, Italian lessons, the weekly art auction, and the not to be missed Mister and Miss Orchestra contests. The Shaker Lounge, located in the rear of the ship, is another large entertainment area where live music is provided in the evenings and where onboard events such as Karaoke, dance lessons, and the ship's passenger talent show take place. The lower level of the atrium is where classical musical entertainment is provided by the ship's superb string quartet or one can enjoy the guitar playing and traditional Latin and South American folk music presented by Los Paraguayos. Finally, the R32 Disco provides late night music and dancing. This ultra-modern room is decorated in a combination of metallic finishes offset by orange lighting and a lit dance floor. CASINO The Palm Beach Casino is smaller than one would expect on a ship that can carry 3,000 passengers at full capacity. While it includes slot machines and all of the usual gaming tables we were informed that Europeans, in general, do not gamble to the extent that Americans like to do while on a cruise and thus the casinos on MSC's ships are smaller. In addition, the casino only opens in the late afternoon or early evening and there were reports of a shortage of trained dealers. We spoke to one fellow passenger who told us that when a significant number of guests wanted to arrange a high-stakes poker game they were told that the ship only had one qualified poker dealer. Besides offering longer hours of operation this is an area that MSC obviously needs to improve in order to bring their gaming facilities up to the level of their competitors if they are going to continue to sail in the Caribbean. BUFFET RESTAURANT Our first exposure to the cuisine onboard the Orchestra was at the buffet where we had lunch shortly after boarding. The buffet is divided into two sections and virtually the same food selection is available on either side of the ship. Entering from the pool deck the first section is called La Piazzetta Cafeteria and further back you enter the 4 Seasons section. Both areas are beautifully decorated with a dark green and beige color scheme offset by brass, marble and mirrors. The tables, chairs, and booths are well spaced and comfortable. Whether you have breakfast or lunch at the buffet there are multiple serving stations on both sides of the ship. Breakfast features the traditional offerings including four types of eggs, the traditional full English breakfast items, pancakes, waffles, cheeses, yogurts, and fruits including baked apples. There is also home made oatmeal available along with the thoughtful addition of packets of brown sugar. The baked goods at the buffet are exceptionally high quality and that statement applies to all of the home baked breads, pastries, and Italian dessert items onboard the ship. Breakfast features items such as bagels, croissants, brioche, plum cake, Danish, and numerous types of artisan breads. The condiments are logically arranged at every serving station and the staff provides table clearing service that is extremely prompt and attentive. The machines that serve coffee (strong and much better than is available on most cruise ships), tea (a complete selection of Twinings is available), and juices are located at the ends of both sections of the buffet. As you would expect the section of the buffet closest to the pool tends to get quite crowded at times while the section further towards the rear of the ship, which includes some outdoor seating, is usually an easier spot to quickly get a table. The walking area of the buffet could be more spacious and at times the combination of the lines at the serving stations and the people walking by made things a bit crowded. We were informed that on their newer ships, such as the Poesia which will replace the Orchestra in the Caribbean later this year, a redesign of the buffet will allow for significantly more walking space. Lunch at the buffet features a salad bar which, while certainly adequate, could be enhanced by the addition of a wider selection of items. A large variety of hot foods are prepared and the menu changes on a daily basis. The specialty regional Italian dishes, including a fresh pasta station and even home-made Paella on one day, were among the best and most reliable offerings. For those seeking the standard offerings burgers, hot dogs, and fries are always available. Pizza is prepared daily and in the evenings between 5 and 9 P.M. when it is the only food available other than room service. DINING ROOM OVERVIEW The ship has two dining rooms. The Villa Borghese Ristorante is located on Deck 5 and L'Ibiscus Ristorante is located on Deck 6. Both venues are staffed primarily by Indonesian waiters and busboys while the maitre d's and their assistants are Italian. Be prepared for the fact that due to a lack of experience or their very recent exposure to the English-speaking traveler, the communication skills of many of the waiters and busboys definitely need improvement. Pointing to the item that you want on the menu and making sure that they have written your order correctly will go a long way to insuring that your meal will be delivered just as it was ordered. Dining on MSC is a bit different than on the more well-known cruise lines. For starters, the seatings for dinner on their Caribbean cruises are at 5:30 and 8 P.M. Primarily because MSC does not have an adequate number of waiters and busboys in their dining rooms your dinner will take approximately two hours from start to finish. Based on our observations MSC is assigning far too many tables to each waiter and thus any delays in service or the taking of your orders is really the fault of the cruise line rather than their overworked staff. Because of the above described shortage of personnel MSC has made a couple of adjustments in their dining rooms. For starters, when you get to your table you will see that your bread plate is already set up with a fresh baked roll, a bread stick, and a slice of one of their delicious fresh-baked artisan breads. A serving tray with lots of butter and one with coffee creamers is already on the table, obviously as a time saving measure. Most unusually there is also a pitcher of ice water on every table. Your waiter or busboy will pour the first glass of water for you after you have been seated but afterwards the pitcher is left on the table so that you can serve yourself. Actually, not having to summon your waiter when you need your water glass filled is a very nice convenience especially since these fellows are trying to handle far more tables than they should. The appearance of the tables could also be improved significantly by eliminating the tacky vase of artificial flowers on each table and replacing it with fresh flowers. Salt and pepper shakers are also found on each table, quite obviously because neither your waiter nor busboy will have the time to grind some fresh pepper on any of your dishes. I can handle this situation easily, of course, but for goodness sake don't cut corners by giving me a shaker of plain ground pepper when many of your dishes are crying out for a generous application of freshly ground pepper. MSC also has an extremely large and very reasonably priced wine list. There are plenty of domestic wines and an extraordinarily wide selection of Italian wines which are listed and described by their geographical region. Unfortunately, MSC has also made the decision not to have trained sommeliers in the dining rooms to assist passengers in making their wine selections. Obviously, this would be extremely helpful where the many Italian wines are concerned since you would have to be a true wine expert to know enough about the vineyards or vintages to make an educated choice. Considering that many of the Italian vintages are priced at less than $ 20 per bottle (when was the last time that you saw a $ 15 bottle of really good wine on a cruise ship?), and that there are many unique after-dinner wines and liqueurs to choose from, not having at least four sommeliers in each dining room is costing MSC a tremendous amount of potential income. From what we heard from our assistant maitre d' the only real wine expert on the ship is assigned to the Wine Bar while guests in the dining room are left on their own when it comes to selecting wines either by the glass or the bottle. For passengers desiring a cocktail with their dinner there are numerous waitresses who continually circulate in the dining rooms to take your order. Finally, because of the way that the waiters are scurrying around, if you order a bottle of wine be prepared to pour any additional glasses for yourself since waiting for your waiter or busboy to notice that you need a refill will simply be an exercise in frustration. DINING ROOMS - THE CUISINE Overall the food aboard the Orchestra ranges from fair to very good and there is certainly the need for improvement in a number of areas. Appetizers are generally very good although it would be nice to have a few additional selections to choose from during dinner. The salads are fine although they could be enhanced quite easily if the chef demonstrated some additional creativity with the ingredients and the presentation. Soups, whether hot or chilled, are only fair to good and could stand some significant improvement. Entrees are basically good with some dishes excelling while others fall far short of expectations. Desserts, especially those with genuine Italian roots, are very good to excellent with a good balance of flavors, textures, and sweetness. Between the breads, baked goods, and desserts it is obvious that the Pastry Chef onboard the Orchestra is blessed with far more creativity and a higher skill level than is the Executive Chef. Naturally the Executive Chef is from Italy and thus you will be well advised to favor dishes from that country rather than venture into other cuisines which, obviously, are not the strength of the kitchen. The various beef dishes are adequate, although as one can experience on many major cruise lines the quality of the cuts is not as high as one would like. Fish is prepared properly and numerous varieties are offered during the week. One disappointing feature of virtually all of the entrees is the complete lack of creativity in the design and presentation of the side dishes that accompany the main course. Potatoes and vegetables, whether boiled, blanched, or roasted, are very simply prepared without any attempt whatsoever at demonstrating the kitchen's ability to wow their passengers. The presentation of the entrEe is also as plain and simple as one might find at one's kitchen table at home with the meat or fish just lying on the plate with the potato and vegetable on the side. Visually these dishes are unexciting and in many cases even a simple sprinkling of chopped parsley would go a long way towards enhancing the appearance of the main course. MSC appears to be under the misimpression that the American palate is far less sophisticated than it actually is. With their U.S. offices located in Ft. Lauderdale, a city with dozens of superb, cutting-edge restaurants, it is hard to believe that the menu planners at the cruise line do not understand how adventurous and knowledgeable Americans are when it comes to food. After having spent thirty-five years as an executive in the cruise industry, the President of MSC cannot possibly offer any excuse for not being aware of the variety, quality, and presentation of food that is currently being served on all of the other major cruise lines. As devotees of the Food Channel the American traveler wants to see and taste new dishes that invigorate their palates when we go on a cruise. MSC's half-hearted efforts in many regards, or else their complete misunderstanding of what passengers are looking for when they sail, often results in a significant under application of herbs and spices on many main courses. In some cases these essential ingredients are neglected to the point that flavors that should jump out at you and excite your palate are missing altogether. As an example, an order of Mahi Mahi, described as being coated with Cajun spices, turned out to be a plain piece of fish with scant evidence that it had come anywhere near to the required spices. The timidity of the chef, or whomever selects the recipes and determines the method of preparation, is very disappointing. Interestingly, however, when it comes to Italian dishes such as their excellent pasta preparations, the sauces are fresh and very well seasoned and are certainly the strongest selections at any lunch or dinner. There are two specialty restaurants onboard the Orchestra which carry a nominal surcharge and require advance reservations. We did not have the opportunity to dine at either of these venues but I can provide you with a brief description of each one. The Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner, is decorated beautifully with an authentic red and black lacquer theme and offers numerous dishes from a range of regions in the country. The 4 Seasons Restaurant, which is open only for dinner, is actually the back half of the buffet which in the evening is transformed into an upscale dining venue. Based on conversations that we had with some passengers who had dined there it appears that the quality and presentation of the food in this locale is significantly higher than that which we experienced in the main dining room. Where the 4 Seasons is concerned, MSC does very little to promote the existence of this dining venue and one night the restaurant was actually closed due to a complete lack of customers. MSC also offers late night buffets on the pool deck or special snacks which are distributed in the lounges around 11 or 11:30 P.M. These late-night snacks, which overall were really excellent, can range from club sandwiches to flaming crepes to zesty hot from the oven snacks such as the delectable chocolate-filled mini-croissants. The more expansive buffets on the pool deck included Italian night along with the Magnifico buffet towards the end of the cruise. Despite the numerous shortcomings noted above, if you pick and choose carefully you can have a good dining experience onboard the Orchestra. The overall quality of the food at the buffet will probably satisfy most passengers, and you can enjoy a pretty satisfying meal in the dining room in the evening if you understand the chef's strengths and weaknesses and make your choices accordingly. ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT Combining a good variety of live music for your dancing and listening pleasure, an exceptionally talented and active entertainment staff, and truly unique production shows, MSC's onboard entertainment is as good if not better than that which is found on virtually any other cruise line. Offering what can be described as International entertainment, the nightly production shows are quite different from the typical offerings on most cruise lines. Instead of the ad nauseam singing and dancing to Broadway tunes which tends to keep more people away from the theatres than draws them in, MSC has put together an extremely interesting and varied top-notch entertainment program. The shows are scheduled before dinner for passengers with the Late Seating and after dinner for those in the Early Seating. As I mentioned seats in the orchestra of the theater are the most desirable and arriving at least 30 minutes before show time is definitely recommended. With hundreds of non-English speaking Europeans flying to Florida to sail with MSC, there wasn't any comedian onboard since interpreting his performance into three or four languages would be futile. Instead, the nightly shows focus on themes such as the circus (highlighted by an incredible performance by a troupe of acrobatic gymnasts from Africa), plus a magic and illusion show which is an amazing full-stage production. Music is the focus on a number of evenings including a classical piano concert where the star is supported by the string quartet, the trio from Paraguay, and a troupe of operatic singers. On another evening the focus is opera where many world-famous operatic songs are performed by an excellent tenor and a soprano while being backed up by the ship's truly superb dancers and the string quartet. A highlight of the cruise was the Celtic Spirit show where incredible music and dancing is enhanced by magic and acrobatics. The final show of the cruise was a wonderful musical journey featuring all of the week's stars and supporting performers ending with a truly wonderful finale. Every performance was awarded well deserved standing ovations by the audience and overall our evenings in the main theatre were enormously entertaining and enjoyable. The ships entertainment staff is composed of ten individuals who apparently work from early in the morning until very late at night. They host the daily morning walk, aerobics, stretching, tournaments and dance lessons on the Pool Deck, and in the evening they conduct the various games, dance lessons, and unique often hysterical contests in the lounges. The group on the Orchestra is full of life and their ability to speak at least four languages only adds to the enjoyment of their zany antics in the lounges and in the main theatre before the evening shows. They are an exceptional group who obviously love working together and they truly work their butts off to make the cruise as enjoyable as possible for passengers who come from all over the world to sail with them. THE POOL DECK If you are like most cruisers you will probably spend a great deal of time on the Pool Deck when you sail in the Caribbean. On the Orchestra this area is extraordinarily large and includes a number of features that are truly unique. For starters, on the end of the deck closest to the buffet restaurant the outer sections of both sides of the deck are furnished with large wicker tables and chairs. These areas are protected from the sun by the sunning and jogging deck above and are perfect for your lunch or just relaxing and people-watching with friends. The center of the deck features the pools, along with two elevated sun decks with recliners and the Jacuzzis. There are plenty of recliners available and one much appreciated feature of them is a moveable sun visor that is attached to the end closest to where you place your head. Towels are distributed at one end of the deck and there are plenty of very unobtrusive and pleasant drink waitresses who continually walk the deck taking orders and emptying ash trays. Since many people bring their lunch out to the tables there are busboys with rolling carts who promptly clear the tables. Many of these fellows were from Italy and it was not unusual to see them stop and chat with travelers from their homeland and even burst into song with the mothers, fathers, and grandparents who were traveling together. The far end of the pool deck includes another pool and a large expansive area with more recliners. There is also a large multi-function wood floor which the entertainment staff uses for the morning programs, dance lessons, and other related activities during the day. Additional pool chairs and smaller bars are located on other higher decks of the ship and while walking space can be a bit tight at times, and the recliners are positioned a bit too close to one another, it is a very lively deck that was always busy during our cruise. The main feature of the pool deck is the El Sombrero Pool Bar. Situated mid-ship, this is where you can get a tropical drink or a bucket of beer, or order a latte, cappuccino or an espresso. With movies under the stars being shown on most nights, this bar remains open quite late into the evening. The highlight of this bar is the gelato station where you can chill out during the day with as many as sixteen different flavors of genuine, homemade, Italian Gelato. Served with the traditional tiny spoon, this is the perfect snack before retiring for the evening and if you are a big fan of superb gelato you will find yourself drawn to this location many times during the day. Truly a stroke of locational genius, the mouth-watering gelato is available in a small cup for $ 1.50 or in a large cup or large cone for only $ 2.00. Once again, whether you order a drink, coffee, or gelato the price that you see is what you pay with no 15% automatic gratuity ever added. SHIPBOARD DEMOGRAPHICS & RELATED ACTIVITIES MSC's Caribbean cruises are scheduled only in the winter, and between December 20th of this year and April of 2010 the Orchestra will be replaced by the Poesia, their newest and largest ship. If our voyage was a typical one there will be many Europeans onboard who have traveled to Florida for their winter vacation and naturally are sailing with MSC as they do back home. On our cruise, for example, there was a group of 400 Italians traveling together along with many passengers from Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, and a large contingent of French Canadians. Because of the international composition of the passengers and the fact that many of them did not speak a single word of English all of MSC's entertainment staff and onboard hosts are required to speak a minimum of four languages. Announcements, while thankfully kept to an absolute minimum during our cruise, were done in four or five languages. This practice also applies to the evening dance lessons and contests which are conducted in the lounges, as well as the tender announcements which were necessary when the ship anchored off Grand Cayman and their private island. It is interesting to hear so many languages spoken during a week at sea, and MSC does offer Italian lessons, but admittedly it did get a bit tiring towards the end of the cruise. MSC continues to appeal to families traveling with young children by only charging the nominal government taxes for kids under the age of 17. Obviously, if you can sail for a week and only pay less than $ 100 apiece for your children MSC may have a tremendous amount of appeal to you. This was certainly in evidence during our voyage when there were hundreds of children of all ages and lots of newborns and infants being carried or pushed around in strollers. MSC appeared to have an exceptional children's program and wonderful onboard facilities. Always very security and safety conscious, MSC requires all children to wear a yellow I.D. wrist band at all times that shows their names and the cabin numbers of their parents. Programs are separated by ages (3 to 6, 7 to 12 and 13 to 18), and there is a large and extremely well-trained staff who do a marvelous job with the kids. The smallest ones seemed to get a great deal of attention and their parade on the pool deck after their face-painting class was one that put a smile on everyone's face as the wee ones made their way by. MSC'S BEACH ISLAND MSC's beach island is named Cayo Levantado, and this small, tropical getaway is located in the middle of La Samana Bay just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Naturally it is necessary to tender ashore and I can report that the early morning distribution of the tender tickets, the calling of the tender numbers, and the entire back-and-forth transportation process ran extremely smoothly throughout the day. We did discover, however, that MSC does not actually own or lease the island as is typical of the major cruise lines that have their private getaways in the Bahamas. In fact, the island is owned and operated by the government of the Dominican Republic and because of this you will have to pay for your food and drink on the island as opposed to the complimentary lunch time barbeque buffets that are provided by other cruise lines. As with the other ports of call a number of shore excursions are offered at the island. You can go whale watching in Samana Bay, on a 4 x 4 jeep safari, or you can actually swim with sea lions. Parasailing and a catamaran sail and snorkel are offered or you can head to the mainland for an excursion to the waterfall, caves and tropical mangroves. SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS Based on my experience on the Orchestra I believe that at the present time MSC is a good cruise line with the potential to evolve into a very good to excellent one. If I had to rate our cruise from one star to five I would probably give it 3 or 3 ½ stars. There were a lot of positive aspects during our week at sea and this ship does excel in a number of areas. On the other hand there are a number of areas, ranging from the minor to the most critical, where a bit of tweaking or a significant amount of improvement is needed. Reviews of this ship on the Internet are extremely varied and one can certainly become quite confused when one passenger gives their cruise one star and another person awards the identical cruise five stars. Having carefully observed everything onboard for an entire week in an extremely detailed, diligent, and professional manner, I can say without hesitation that many of the statements and negative comments that are posted on the Internet are either totally inaccurate or presented in an extremely subjective manner. To lapse into a bit of pure subjectivity for a moment, if you read between the lines of many reviews, and back that up with the actual observation of passenger behavior on the ship, it becomes evident in short order that ones attitude towards the personnel on a cruise ship will set the tone for the type of response that you will get and the level of service that you will receive. The fact that language barriers exist onboard an MSC ship, or that a staff member is being exposed to a totally new language and unfamiliar culture for the first time, is neither a flaw nor a fault of the individual. It is, on the other hand, a situation, or a circumstance that exists on this European based cruise line and is one which can be handled without any difficulty if the "Ugly American" attitude is left at home where it belongs. As with any voyage on any cruise line if you go onboard believing that the ship's personnel are basically dirt underneath your fingernails then you will not be satisfied no matter what the staff does for you. On the other hand, if you demonstrate some basic respect for people who come from other countries, work extraordinary long hours, are away from their families for many months at a time, and understand that under circumstances like these that a smile is a universal greeting that is immediately understood by anyone, then you can have an extremely pleasant time. I cannot defend MSC for not doing their homework and adequately or completely preparing for their entry into the Caribbean cruising market, yet at the same time I believe that they are headed in the right direction and that hopefully over time they will make the necessary changes to their overall product. My objective in writing this review has been to provide you with as much objective, in-depth information so that you can make an educated decision as to whether a cruise on a MSC ship is something for you. As a moderately priced cruise line where a cruise with the kids is an extremely economical way to travel, you can definitely have a very enjoyable time on an MSC ship. The strengths of the ship and the cruise line are readily apparent and based on the information in this review you should be well aware of the shortcomings and how you can make adjustments to overcome any potential problems. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
I am going to give you both the good and bad the bad on the boat. We traveled with a 5 year old and had a suite / balcony. GOOD - Our suite was great, clean and large (we had the largest rooms on the boat. We tipped our room steward at ... Read More
I am going to give you both the good and bad the bad on the boat. We traveled with a 5 year old and had a suite / balcony. GOOD - Our suite was great, clean and large (we had the largest rooms on the boat. We tipped our room steward at the beginning of the trip and always had fresh towels, fruit and ice in our room. It was also cleaned 3-4 times a day. Some of the shows were good - the opening show was fantastic The soft-serve ice cream (but you have to pay $2 for it). The head server and the our maitre d'(sorry about the spelling)Villa Borghese. After we complained they were very attentive and did the best they could to ease the pain of waiting for food. The chinese food - got to try it. It was great! My son seemed to enjoy the kids club and it seemed clean! The BAD - Every announcement is made in 3-5 languages (Italian, English, French and sometimes Spanish) and are very fast Some of the shows including the magic act were 2nd rate. The food was not good (pasta and lamb were okay) steaks were tough and thin kinda like at the Sizzler or Golden Coral. The lobster was the worst thing served, maybe the sushi, but the lobster was terrible. They cut the lobster from head to tail in half and then bake it. you cant get it out of the shell and that should have been a warning to me. Dinner takes for ever to eat. Plan on a minimum of 2 hours with a table of 8-9. 3 hours the first night. Luggage delivery is slow the first night. Unfortunately for one women we met luggage delivery was nonexistent. Her luggage went on a 10 day cruise on a different boat without her (lucky luggage). According to her, the ship and its management did nothing to help her an even charged her $80 for two shirt out of their on-board store. She spent $500 of her own money buying underwear, tennis shoes, pants, a slip to sleep in, and other necessities. The boat and the chief bursar did nothing. Shame on them! She was also in her mid-to late 60's. I received a survey in my room in reference to service. No pen to write with though. Seems each employee is issued one pen and they must never let anyone take it from them. I had to go to two places and finally asked for a supervisor before someone would give me their $0.05 MSC supplied pen. You would have thought i was asking for blood! If you buy alcohol / spirits on board be prepared to pick them up yourself from the shop the last day of the cruise. its a mad house down there too! The lines at the accounting desk went on and on especially the last day of the cruise. Everyone was complaining of errors. I did not have errors but i did lower my tip amount which upset them. The first night at dinner I complained about the slow service (40 minutes to get a piece of cheese cake without syrup. I was told by the head (over all of them) maitre d that slow service is not a complaint. I told him that if I the customer felt it was a complaint, then it was a complaint. Very few excursions in some ports. If you travel with kids know that the shows start at 7 and the kids club general does not open till 7:15. Its also at the other end of the boat so you miss 10-15 minutes of the show. They will also feed your child pizza about 7 times during the cruise. I hope this helped. In general the staff is rude and does not speak very much english. They can tell you how to get to the bathroom though. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Embarkation: Arrived at 1230pretty easy. I wouldn't go much earlier than this because of the mess of people getting off the boats. Buffet and pool area is open. You can also go to your roombut there is no luggage for awhile. ... Read More
Embarkation: Arrived at 1230pretty easy. I wouldn't go much earlier than this because of the mess of people getting off the boats. Buffet and pool area is open. You can also go to your roombut there is no luggage for awhile. Especially if you have kids-have them wear their suits, get chairs and drinks and hang out by the pool upon embarking. Grab a table and eat out there as well. Sail away party is worth watching! At Sea Days: If you have kids, you are probably stuck by the pool. If you can, go to upper levelsplenty of quiet places to lay in the sun. Pool area is pretty noisy of course. Our group liked to grab a few chairs, as well as a table nearby so we could have food, shade and sun. No need to get up early...just be patient and chairs open up. Kids loved the pools, couldn't keep them out of them. We had planned on the Kids Club for our 6, 8,9 and 10 year olds. However, it was not a good experience none of them wanted to return. They did meet a couple of friends and met up with those kids at various times. Despite the reviews, I had planned on making Kids Club work-my kids and there cousins are not "difficult," but the 7-12 program was really lacking. Plus, I noticed that these kids that were in Kids Club were often running around the ship unsupervised asking strangers questions to fill out a game sheet. Sooo- what's the point?? We quickly got over the Kids Club disappointment and our kids swam, played tennis, ping-pong, mini-golf, arcade and relaxed. At night, our kids gathered in one room and either watched a movie or played the xbox that we brought. I think that the 3-6 year old program was better for the preschool kids. Not sure about the adult activities, as we were not interested in most of it-but it seemed like there was stuff to do if you wanted to do it. We did participate a little bit in the "Baseball Greats" stuff. Cayo: Loved this beach! Got the girls hair braided, rented sea kayak (only $15 for 2 hours!) and found a quiet spot just below the grassy area. My husband and 13 year old parasailed and loved it. Shop here-it is better than the other ports in my opinion. Chairs are free and a worker will get them for you if you ask. St. Maartin: Clean port. We just walked around and shopped. Then we got some chairs and an umbrella and played on the beach. Water taxi is $6 round tripor you can walk. This beach has TONS of sea shells. Antigua: We did the Pirate Ship excursion. Very fun! Open bar (free), rope swing, plank, snorkel, dancing, beach time and swimming. We had just enough time for this excursion and then had to be back on the boat. This port time was really short. Nassau: You must have an excursion at this port! We snorkeled. Nassau is dirty, crowded and NOT the place just to walk around. Snorkeling was OK, the water was real choppy. Dining and Shows: We had 2nd seating with a show before dinner. All the shows were very good of course everyone will prefer some over others. Good variety-don't miss the orchestra night. Dinner does take a couple of hours. We didn't minddinner was more of an event for us. The kids were finealthough they skipped a couple of times but they generally preferred to be in the dining room. We had fun with the head waiter- Sergiohe is entertaining and very good. We also purchased the wine package. Food was generally very good. Order italian as much as possible. Ordering American food on this cruise is a bit like getting a hamburger at a mexican food place-it can be good, but you take your chances.... Embrace European dining you can have cheese for breakfast and dessert! Buffets were fine. Pizza was really good it is served from 5pm-9pm. Other: Spa is really nice! Steam rooms, workout room and sauna are free and should be taken advantage of. Alcohol is reasonably priced. Order wine package in dining room and take wine back to your room. You can get beer buckets for $10 or $12. Teen Disco is iffy. My 13 year old went, but we supervised a few times or only let her stay for an hour or so. If your teen is likely to "test boundaries," they will get in trouble here. Magnifico Buffet on Thursday night is amazing! If I would have know, I would have had this be my dinner. Each night there were midnight offerings of some sort. Shaker Lounge is where most of the night life is-as well as the casino. Service is good-but not pushy! This is a laid back cruise. If you need something, you will need to ask. The staff is not intending on being a constant source of entertainment. There are only morning and evening announcements. Read your daily and spend your cruise how you prefer.....I found it to be different than Carnival both are good-just different from one another. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
In summary, the crew is limited in English speaking members and at times are quite rude. I understand this creates communication barriers. Therefore the MSC cruise line needs to provide more English speaking crew members when sailing out ... Read More
In summary, the crew is limited in English speaking members and at times are quite rude. I understand this creates communication barriers. Therefore the MSC cruise line needs to provide more English speaking crew members when sailing out of the the US and don't have to repeat every message in four languages which most times you can't understand. The MSC Orchestra ship is new, very nice and clean {so clean that you will get "brass polish" on your hands at least once on a seven day cruise. Our Cabin {a balcony on the Chitarra Deck 14} rather small but well appointed. Our Cabin Steward never introduced himself. We waited on our luggage which we finally went to get ourselves. In the Dining Room {table 624} we meet Luigi {best thing} in the dinning room, and probably on the ship as far as the crew goes. Normally we would dine at the buffet {on most other ships we found the buffet has the same food as the dinning room and is less informal} DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME IN THIS AREA, GET DRESSED AND GO TO THE DINING ROOM, WHICH IS BEST OF THE TWO AREAS. And don't even think about 24 hour food service, for it doesn't exist on this ship. Quality of the food on a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a minus 1. For an Italian Cruise Line TERRIBLE would have to describe the food and I'm Italian. On the 5th day I went to the accounting office and removed the $12 per day tips for my wife and myself knowing I would take care of my waiter and cabin steward only with CASH, and by the way MSC doesn't like this policy. Tuff, I took care of the crew who at least tried to take care of us. I stopped a young lady crew member and asked her if she spoke or understood English, and in a perfect English accent her response was "No I don't" and she keep on walking. That's when the tips were removed. Our time in the ports was short, shorter than most other ships we have sailed in the Caribbean. The first port is a beach party on Cayo Levantado, you get nothing, no water, no food, just a towel and a tender boat ride. Unless you enjoy the beach, Well judge for yourself when you get there. The other three ports St Maarten, Antigua and Nassau were shorter than our itinerary had listed and we fully understand that the ship and captain have the right to alter itineraries. Don't fall for the "self assist" luggage program, it's organized confusion at best with no one and I mean no one from the crew will tell you whats going on. In short the MSC line is a massive entity in Europe {Italy and Spain} if they want to service the US they will have to make some changes in crew, food service, quality of food, or they will win with "first time cruisers only". I would not sail again on this line and I wish them all the best. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
First let me say that the cabins are well appointed with storage galore! 12 drawers (6 in nightstands and 6 in desk), shelves in closet and plenty of hanging space along with sufficient amount of hangers. Flat screen TV with remote (though ... Read More
First let me say that the cabins are well appointed with storage galore! 12 drawers (6 in nightstands and 6 in desk), shelves in closet and plenty of hanging space along with sufficient amount of hangers. Flat screen TV with remote (though got rather tired of CNN and Shipboard hype) - movie of the day was free, but if you wanted another one it cost almost 11.00. Did have one cartoon channel (though not my thing). Good supply of water and cabin service staff kept everything immaculate. Food was very good and waiter had good command of English language. The dining manager came around daily to check on how they were doing as opposed to other lines we've been on when the only time you see them is the day of tipping. Nice merchandise from ships stores and at fairly reasonable prices. Staff in on-board jewelry store helpful with hints on silver shopping in Cozumel. What would I change on this ship? First, make a designated "adult only" pool and enforce it like Princess does. Couldn't get in the pool except for days in port when almost everyone was off ship. Second, when you have rules (no one under 18 in casino and no one under 18 drinking) enforce them!!! Casino was not smoke free and would really have hesitated to park strollers while Mom's gambled - overlooked by casino staff. 6 Penny machines which were a challenge to get to - machines paid the first 2 nights - then someone turned the switch and little to nothing coming out until the last night. Midnight buffets were excellent (although it appeared that no one had eaten on the ship for days the way the passengers acted.-almost a feeding frenzy). They did offer Kids go Free and Kids programs, but I question at 1130 at night why the 6 year olds were at the passenger talent show (along with their counselors). Met one woman travelling with her teenager and she was even taken aback by things she observed as well. She was a frequent passenger on Carnival, but the "price on MSC was right". We had sailed on the Melody back in 2002 and had incorrectly assumed that this would be a newer version but with the same high standards - I personally question if I would have brought twins 7 weeks old on a cruise. but that's me. Had to dodge strollers and children everywhere one went - deck 15 (solarium) offered about the only quiet place other than the cabin to sit in and sun oneself or to read. Shore excursions pricey, but no more so than on any other ship - usually do it on our own depending on port. The menu and shows remained the same for the entire two weeks (a plus for a traditional 14 day sailing versus the back to back, but thought there could have been some variety). Confusion when asking staff questions - could ask the same question of three people and get three different answers. Be aware that everything is done in multi-languages - all announcements etc. English, Dutch, French, Spanish and from the appearance of the second weeks cruisers - perhaps will be also in Japanese. Would I sail again on MSC? Seriously doubt it as will return to Celebrity, Holland America and the likes. Hope this helps folks in what to expect - always try to mix the good with the not so good. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
HEEDING THE WARNINGS THAT CAME BEFORE I saw all of the reviews online before I went on this cruise and also spoke with people at work who had been on this cruise line before and there was pretty much a mixed bag aside from the ... Read More
HEEDING THE WARNINGS THAT CAME BEFORE I saw all of the reviews online before I went on this cruise and also spoke with people at work who had been on this cruise line before and there was pretty much a mixed bag aside from the commonalities which were that you need to like authentic Italian food and that you need to be aware that it is not American style cruising. Having understood that, I prepared my husband for the potential differences and he said fine. We both held an open mind and said fine...let's try it out. FIRST IMPRESSIONS Embarkation took less than 20 minutes. I will preface my next sentence by saying that I have a very keen sense of smell and our room was as I expected although I noticed that the duvet cover had a bit of a funk to it like it hadn't been washed in several sailings. (They disembark passengers at 7am and reembark new passengers at 1pm so...no telling how many weeks the duvee covers and pillow covers go without washing.) There was an odor so I'm not sure where it was coming from but it seemed to be from those coverings. Either way, having thrown all of those items off of my bed promptly upon entering the room - I did think the room was beautiful and had tons of storage. My husband and I brought a total of 4 medium to large suit cases so there was plenty of room to store everything we had. Our balcony was very spacious and we were situated toward the back of the ship (one room away from the back of the boat). One of the first pleasant European surprises we did find on the ship was that all the water and minibar items are Italian (aside from Pepsi products) and we enjoyed sampling the Limoncello and Campari soda. It was also a nice treat to have cold bottled water out of an actual glass bottle. Everything seems to taste better that way! There was fresh fruit in our cabin the first evening and our room was made up appropriately for the time of day each time we came back to our room. It was pretty amazing actually. I really got the feeling right away that the crew on the ship work...a lot. They are always visibly working and it almost made me feel bad because it seemed to be every time I turned around there were 4 or 5 crew members near me doing work of some kind. They definitely have the attention to detail when it comes to cleaning. Bathroom amenities include small pink bottles of shampoo and soap and showercaps. No conditioner. Glad I brought mine... Oh, also - highly recommend bringing in your checked baggage some bottles of wine and/or liquor. We brought on 5 bottles of wine and one of liquor with no problem. Also brought on one bottle of rum from a port with no issues whatsoever. This was a nice feature of this cruise...I must say as it saved me quite a bit of money. Dinner the first evening took almost 3 hours...it got better each night after that so I'm not sure what happened that evening but it was a bit of a surprise. I must say that our server Ruslan was very helpful and accommodating to even the most critical of guests (2 were at our table). We did have a strange and rude encounter with the Maitre d' on the first night because he wanted us out of the dining room as it was time for the next seating and he didn't realize that it was our servers who had kept us there that late. So, everyone got up abruptly and left in a state of shock. I'm pretty sure one of my fellow tablemates had words with him afterwards as they were syrupy nice the next evening. It did get better as the cruise went on...and our table took every opportunity to tease them about wanting to yell at us again. One night when the restaurant was mostly empty they even played around with the guests by riding one of the guests scooters around the dining room. Everyone had a good laugh and the owner of the scooter especially enjoyed seeing them have fun for a change. The show the first night was hilarious, the second was good, and the third was interesting. This night I noticed that they were playing recorded (simulated) music over the top of a classical concert and it was obviously strange. I didn't go to any shows after that until the Celtic Spirit (5th night) and they went from Celtic music and dancing straight into a Michael Jackson song followed by We are the world...which felt like a strange ploy for better tips. Strange to say the least. Didn't go to the show the next two nights. I think having lived in Chicago and Las Vegas for many years - I am probably not the best person to judge what entertainment should be on a cruise ship. I have high expectations and I was a bit disappointed in this area. I really enjoy cruise ship comedians and there was not a hint of comedy on this boat except for the first night. I was not prepared for that realization. WHAT'S NEXT? Husband got sick on the 3rd night (sore throat, coughing), I did too around the 6th night. I heard the ships out of south Florida are known for the virus due to the recycled air so it probably hasn't much to do with the ship itself however there was not one mention on this ship of handwashing. There were Purell stations set up at embarkation and disembarkation points but that was it...I can't help but think this could have had something to do with it. Even our cabin steward was coughing non stop. When I asked her how long she'd been on the boat she said it was a 9 month contract. I also asked her how long she'd been sick. She said weeks... The food in the dining rooms was most always good to excellent. Buffet was fair to good. Every breakfast was exactly the same items in the buffet(included scrambled, fried, plain omelets, sausage, bacon, variety of bread, cereals, yogurt, milks, fruits, pancakes, waffles, juices). One strange note...there was not one berry to be seen on the ship the entire time I was there. Most lunch items were the same from day to day as well although they did change up the main entrees from day to day and added fresh pastas. The pizzeria was fair to good depending on how good of pizza you are used to eating. If you are from Chicago or New York you will probably judge it more harshly as we did...it was decent and hit the spot when you were hungry. They have basic cheese, pepperoni, veg, then you can add some additional toppings if you want. Breakfast at the buffet cuts off distinctly at 10:30am and there is no food available between 10:30am and noon when lunch starts. The buffets are abruptly cut off in between meals so if you get up late you need to order one of the 4-5 items from the room service menu which includes tuna salad or chicken club sandwich, ceasar or mixed green salad, fruit or cheese plate, or desert. That is it... You can order a continental breakfast (rolls, juice, coffee, tea) for delivery to your room in the morning but it is a pretty disappointing breakfast unless you are used to a small breakfast. Tried the Chinese restaurant and while their Dim Sum is on par with what I would expect from a high end Chinese restaurant, the rest is your average Chinese food in any decent sized city. Service was a bit slow for the price and the price was high when I went in with the expectations set by previous reviewers who stated "Best Chinese at Sea". It may be, but it isn't better than the three Chinese places that are within one block of my house in Las Vegas, or what would have been near my house in Chicago either. Again, a matter of what is available to you on a daily basis vs. how much you enjoyed the experience. Port times and excursions were the most disappointing part of the cruise. If you noticed when you read the excursion descriptions that you had a hard time choosing because they all sounded the same...it is because they are very run of the mill. There was not one moment of "Wow" factor in either of the mid range excursions that we attended. If you are looking for wow, spend your money on the experience based excursions like parasailing, jeep tours, zip lines, etc. That would be the only way I would recommend paying for an MSC organized excursion. I would think twice about paying for the touring excursion. The two that we attended were boring and not worth the money. We would have been better off taking a tour on our own, renting a car, or staying on the beach. The port times are WAY TOO SHORT to do much and they will leave you if you don't make it back to the ship on time. Several people were left throughout the cruise. One guy fell asleep at Cayo and had to catch another cruise ship to catch up at another port with us. The best recommendation I can make is to stay close to the port so you are on time or carefully plan your time so that you have enough time to do something realistic and get back in time. Beach would be best. My favorite port on this cruise was Cayo Levantado which was the first port to visit...after I left there I had a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't until I went to the other islands that I realized that it was the best of the 4 which wasn't saying much. I do think that all of that could have been remedied if I had chosen to just go to the beach on the first three ports and then shopping at or near the port in Nassau. In Antigua, I highly recommend searching out the best beaches in a guide and going there in a group if you can.(adds a factor of safety). There were some magnificent beaches there that we saw on our way back to the boat and it made us sick to our stomachs that we had sat for 4 hours on a boring bus tour when we could have been at that beautiful beach. If you stick to that you would be much better off and would save the excursion costs. You could easily take a cab wherever you need to go using a guide book. The ship has a ton of swaying and vibration. I have never felt it like this before and it was worse in the back so if you think this will bother you then I would advise booking in the front to middle of the ship. Also, the back of the ear patches are very necessary on this ship. I didn't do it and I regretted not getting them the whole time I was on the ship. Instead, I had to take Bonine and was either half sleepy or sick for most of the "at sea" portion of the trip. LAST IMPRESSIONS ARE LASTING IMPRESSIONS I didn't see one moment of disrespect until the night before disembarking when I went to the Accounting office to see about an issue with my credit card. They do not authorize transactions on your card as most companies do...they do multiple authorizations across the cruise in $50 increments and after a few authorizations coming from outside the US - my credit card company saw it as fraud, called my house, and promptly disabled my card. This happened on two cards. When I went to explain that they needed to settle the authorizations they already made on my card they told me no...it was declined. I had to tell them several more times to settle the authorizations they already made and I would pay the remainder in cash. I was met with some attitude and when I asked the person to listen to what I was saying I did end up with what I needed, however the next morning I also heard a passenger raising their voice and being an ugly Canadian (threatening) and the crew at the Accounting office sneered and spoke to each other in Italian but never responded to the passenger. I think it may be a cultural thing to avoid the confrontation but I'm not sure. I do know that they had a steady line for 3 hours on the morning of disembarkation full of passengers who were disputing their bill or portions of it...so there probably was a reason for the anger on both sides of the equation. My husband also reported that the disembarkation crew members were very rude to him when I was at the accounting office dropping off my final paperwork. I believe they were tired of seeing him standing there and we were suppose to be self assist disembarkation but it took me longer to get thru the hoards of people in Accounting than I thought it would so he was left standing with them for 20 minutes or so... Once I appeared and we moved out of their way they looked pleased. I later found out that they have to have all of their self assist passengers out before the other passengers can leave. So, all in all...I was happy to leave the ship and was looking forward to eating food that wasn't Italian. I was happy to leave the room that made my sinuses clog up in a few minutes. This was the first time I have ever felt this coming back from a trip. Luckily, I do have a few days in south Florida to sit on the beach and relax. I would probably not recommend this cruise line to anyone unless they have kids and could benefit from the kids sailing free. Everything is scheduled and unless you skip most of the activities you can't really just sit and relax. If you were looking for a low cost vacation as I was in this case, I do think we got our money's worth but I think we could also have done that and gotten some better entertainment and port times by going thru Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
To start, my party was a group of 9 with 4 adults and 5 teenagers. The cruise was a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise. Before the cruise I spent hours on line reading all of the cruise reviews and as the cruise approached I began to get ... Read More
To start, my party was a group of 9 with 4 adults and 5 teenagers. The cruise was a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise. Before the cruise I spent hours on line reading all of the cruise reviews and as the cruise approached I began to get worried. The good: There were only 4 good things about the cruise: One was the cabin service. I never once ran into my steward and the room was cleaned 3 times a day. It would have been nice though if they put pieces of chocolate on the pillows a night or folded extra towels on the bed in animal shapes like on other major cruises. The rooms were well decorated and had a pleasant feel. The pillows were not as bad as people made it seem on this web page. The second good thing about the cruise was its cleanliness. There were people shining all of the brass non stop. There are a million hand sanitizers throughout the ship that are almost always full, maybe because only we used them. The public bathrooms are also clean and abundant. The ones towards the front of the ship on deck 13 have an amazing view of the water. There are also hundreds of mirrors on the cruise so if you don't like to way you look, don't go on the boat. The third good thing was the desert (minus the flan). The vanilla ice cream was fantastic and I ordered that every night with the other dessert. Even the sugar free deserts were spectacular. The final good thing about the boat was embarkation, it took us an hour to get on the boat, we arrived at 10, and were on the boat by 11. The people were a little rude though while boarding. The Bad: Food: Everything else about the cruise was horrible. The food was never hot, dinner took to long, and we were always served last. We tried to eat every meal in the restaurant and the most disappointing of them all was breakfast. They had the same menu everyday for the whole cruise. I tried to get the Eggs Benedict but found that nobody on the cruise knows how to cook and egg. Everyday my eggs were hard and the yolk did not run, the hollandaise sauce was too light and had no flavor. I also ordered a bagel one morning and it came out, no joke, as burnt as you can imagine. I bit into it just to show everyone how hard it was and I couldn't break through it. I asked the waiter for one a little less cooked and he said that that was how they all were. The breakfast also took on average an hour. Lunch in the restaurant also took way to long and the menu was horrible. DO NOT EAT THE MEXICAN FOOD. At dinner the food was slow and the meals were cold. I would suggest getting a sirloin every night on the side in case your meal is as bad as they were for me. The buffet upstairs was always crowded with nowhere to sit and the cleaning people were slow and unhelpful. We never got to order room service because there was no menu in the room and the would not bring us one. The entertainment: The first show was the only one worth seeing. The magic was terrible, as bad as it can get. If you have to see it, I would suggest to sit on the main level and not the balcony because you can see the people running from prop to prop totally running the show. The sports on the ship were also horrific. We tried to get the basketball but someone had signed it out in the morning on the of the first day, and never brought it back. So the cruise had only one basketball left, that had hole sin it, and it eventually went over board. And they had no more basketballs for the last few days of the cruise. This was the first cruise I have been on that does not have any sports equipment by the sports. You have to walk halfway across the ship to rent anything and chances are they wont have it or they wont be there to give it to you. The people who organize all of the sports activities don't speak English and have never played a single sport themselves. They couldn't write the name Josh down right, they wrote ukofs instead. They were unhelpful and stupid. None of them ever smiled and everyone of them had a bad attitude, they were never wrong about anything, it was always the guest that was wrong. We tried to participate in the tournaments but they always ended up with no clear rules, no actual tournament and sometimes the person who organized the tournaments just left and no one knew where they went. One of the teens in our group was playing ping pong and 2 people who work on the shipped told him to leave and they took the table from him, it was outrageous. We complained and nothing was done about it. The table tennis equipment was old and decrepit. They had only one ball for the 2 tables through the cruise. They do manage to save 2 extra balls for the kids group that disappear when they leave. The Foosball table is old with mold and it doesn't stand up right. Since no one on the cruise has a brain, they put the Table Tennis and Foosball on the smoking side of the ship right next to a bathroom so you cant breath while you are playing and there are always a million people waiting by the equipment. Shuffle board was impossible to play because the court is either to slippery or two hard. We tried for an hour to get at least a point but be were never able to get it on the board. There are also people sunbathing right next to the shuffle board so if you want to play, you will get some nasty looks. The schedule for each day consists of maybe, maybe 10 activities while at see. THAT'S IT. You go on the cruise to participate in activities and they have almost nothing going on. Oh, those ten might include a morning walk or a trivia game about the boat that is a waste of time. I need to say this again, the entertainment team is the worst part of the cruise. The Ports: I don't think it was possible to have worse port times. I think we were in Antigua for 4 hours or something. It was a nasty and hideous place. The only good port was St. Maarten, the beach there was amazing. Kids Group: The kids in our group went to one, seriously only one teen activity the whole cruise. They had one activity the whole day for teens and it was never organized well, we went up to see if the kids were there sometimes and just saw a bunch of teens running in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. Disembarkation: We really wanted to get off of the ship early so we could be on our way. They have an early disembarkation that starts at 6:45 AM. We got there at 6:15, we were in the from of the line, and the pole who swipe your ID card to let us off the boat decided to sleep in and we got of of the boat at 7:30 instead. All in all, nothing but the cabin was acceptable on the cruise, the staff were horrible, unintelligent, and rude. I would recommend this cruise to nobody, even if it is free, all you will have is stress and unhappiness. Read Less
MSC Orchestra Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.3
Family 3.0 3.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.1
Enrichment 2.0 2.8
Service 3.0 3.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.3
Rates 4.0 3.9

Find a MSC Orchestra Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise